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Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ~Jamie Ford

Engaging, delightful, sentimental, gentle – truth telling.

Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I so enjoy when history is wrapped up in a story that just holds your mind and your heart captive.  The lessons just seem to mix together and make a complete idea and this book does just that.

I downloaded this book for our next book group read and hoped it would hold my attention for the 2 twenty hour train rides on my agenda.  The book did not fail.  It is also available in paperback and I could have purchased it used for very little and it was on special at TARGET.

I put it on the KINDLE http://patriciaswisdom.com/2009/04/kindle-2-and-5-things-i-love-about-it/
so that I would have plenty to read in a light weight package for travel.  I found by increasing the printing one font size on the KINDLE I had no problem facing backward to the motion of the train and reading for hours.

The story location is  Seattle, Washington in 1942 and in 1986.  It is written about China town, Japanese Town and the Black Jazz community near Pioneer Square.   This of course is a story of being an emigrant and of World War II, feelings, being American, and the internment camps.

It is told by Henry an American 12 year old, retired Boeing Engineer, who is the son of Chinese emigrants.   His Father’s family has been wiped out by the Japanese invasions in China and Henry’s Father has come to the USA to start over again – alone.  Wanting the best for his son, Henry is sent as a scholarship student to an all Caucasian college preparation middle school quite a walk away from his neighborhood.

The story glosses over details like ethnic cleansing but hones sharply in on the anger and unparalleled feelings of disempowerment which are residuals left within the victims and spewed out within their actions and lives.

And, sometimes immigrants are victimized all over again within their new environment.

A new “scholarshiping” person arrives at the school- Keiko, who is second generation American – Japanese. These are two cultures that “despise” each other. Henry and Keiko become lifelong friends and they teach us the lessons of the internment camps and why the Japanese complied.

The book group discussion centered around the concepts of prejudice; making an attempt at identifying with characters and why the Japanese in the camps did not fight back or “escape” when there were so few soldiers on the home front to contain them within the camps.

I truly identified with Henry and Keiko for even though I did not look so different, I was first generation American of immigrant parents.  We were different. Our family friends were the other imported people who worked for the State. When my father had brought the State’s public schools into the top ten list of best schools, he was fired from his post, because the folks did not want any more of his “foreign” ideas.

My parents found it more comforting to live in large cities with more diversity and acceptance.

The awarding winning author of this book is of Chinese origins, even though his mining giant grandfather changed his family name to FORD. The author spent a number of years in the Seattle area before locating in Montana.

It is a story of family, and love, and finding one’s identity; acceptance of culture and diversity.   It is a story that shares a lesson of our history as a nation.   It is foundationed by the old immigrant hotel that is being restored in downtown Seattle and remains as a lesson in our history.

I would highly recommend that all middle school and high school students read this book – and of course all the history buffs who just enjoy a good read.   A delightful history lesson, wrapped up in the details of caring and respect for all people.

It was found to be a “good read” by all the members of our book group.

Other articles you might enjoy reading and some great gift ideas – stocking stuffers!:
Kindle 2 and 5 Things I Love About it
Desmond Tutu on Compassion
Breakfast With Buddha

8 Responses to “Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ~Jamie Ford”

  1. J.D. Meier Says:

    > It is a story of family, and love, and finding one’s identity; acceptance of culture and diversity.
    This is such a timeless story.

    In fact, it even sounds like the story of Rudolph (the red nosed reindeer, the Elf that wanted to be a dentist, and the Abominable Snowman that everybody was afraid of, and the Island of Misfits.)

    I didn’t realize how much Rudolph was about tolerance and self-love until later. It’s one of those lessons that grows on you over time.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Lessons Learned from Guy Kawasaki =-.

  2. Talon Says:

    Sounds like a great read. JD’s right – it is a timeless story.

    Kudos for reading on the train! I can’t read in any moving vehcile – plane or car or train or ferry – it just makes me dizzy! Which is annoying because it’s wonderful when you have the perfect time to enjoy a good story.
    .-= Talon´s last blog ..Record breaking… =-.

  3. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patrica .. the book sounds as though it should be read by all – and it’s now on my wish list – and another good title .. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ..

    Your description tells us what to expect and the book group obviously thought it a worthwhile book to read.

    All the best and hope you’re feeling better ..
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat …Christmas through the ages …. =-.

  4. vered | blogger for hire Says:

    Thanks for the review, Patricia. Sounds interesting.
    .-= vered | blogger for hire´s last blog ..Former Miss Argentina Dies After Cosmetic Surgery =-.

  5. Patricia Says:

    Sorry it took me awhile to get here…we had a huge wind storm and I lost power off and on all weekend, only to find that IT girl lost power too….so we are playing catch up!

    JD
    It is a timeless story and it is also an excellent history lesson. I also saw Everybody’s Fine movie this weekend (it was warm there!) and it is sentimental story which is also timeless…there were only 6 people in the theatre to see that movie!

    Talon,
    I was not able to read on the train going backwards before, but with the KINDLE I could make the print larger or listen with head phones and had no trouble. My entire family can not read on moving transportation so I know what it is like. It is a good place to read.

    Hilary,
    A lovely book Henry’s love and feelings just entered into me.
    I am giving it to all of my children for the holiday.

    Vered,
    This is a good book to teach about prejudice and immigration for middle school kids through adult. And a dynamic, yet gentle way to explore history. I am going to give a copy to our school library. And a good love story is just right for this time of year!

  6. Patricia Says:

    I truly do know that immigrant is spelled immigrant…not emigrant.
    Emigrate is a person who leaves for political reasons and usually force…now I have to go back and check if I used them in the correct way? Now I need to ask…because immigrant is the person living in a new country….always good to be reminded of the subtleties of words.
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ~Jamie Ford =-.

  7. Cath Lawson Says:

    Hi Patricia – Thanks for the great review. I love reading about history through fiction. It is easier to imagine what it was like, if you’re seeing it through the eyes of a convincing character.

    Have you read Sebastian Faulk’s novels? He writes some great historical stuff – some of it is set in World War II.

  8. Patricia Says:

    Cath,
    I have not read any Faulk…I will put it on my list as my brother loves reading about Wars…and watching DVDs about war…I love to read, but I think this particular book is a great history lesson because of the characterizations. Thanks