Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by debut author Jamie Ford – reviewed by Nic
Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.
As Henry walks by the Panama Hotel, amongst the crowd, he sees that the belongings of evacuated Japanese are being unveiled after 40 years. Henry sees a parasol that makes him reflect on his childhood, and we’re taken back in time….
Young Henry must speak English in the house (although his parents do not understand). He is not accepted in his American school (because he’s Chinese), and he’s not accepted amongst the Chinese kids (because he’s “American”). As a lonely child, he finds friendship with a Japanese girl in the American school, also “scholarshipping.” They become fast friends, unbeknownst to his very anti-Japanese father. As their friendship grows, the Japanese are having more and more problems because of the ongoing war. Then, when the Japanese are taken away to internment camps, and Keiko is among them, what can Henry do? Will he ever see her again?
Back in the present, Henry is searching among the dust in the basement of the hotel for Keiko’s belongings, during which time, his son (and the reader) is finding out more and more about his father’s very difficult early years. What will he find? What more can we learn?
This serious tear-jerker is a must read. It is the story of our past, and of our future. Henry was blind to Keiko’s nationality, as should people today be blind of our differences. This story will open hearts and hopefully minds…