Author(s): Jamie FordDownload
In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s—Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel’s basement for the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.
Some Reviews: 19859 in Goodreads.com
Set in Seattle during the Japanese internment during WW2. This book has a sweeping feel to it. It starts out slow – but not slow in the sense who feel like you are waiting for paint to dry – but slow in the “This is really going somewhere” kind of way. It does go somewhere by the way. Once the ball gets rolling, this book sweeps you up into the lives of two friends who made a promise to see each other again.
The book begins as Henry Lee stands in front of the Panama Hotel. This hotel has been boarded up for years but a new owner has discovered something inside – the belongings of Japanese families. Their possessions that were left behind when they were rounded up and taken to internment camps. As he stands watching, a simple act happens…the owner opens up a Japanese parasol. This act takes him back. We have all experienced this. A scent, a food, a location, a sound can take us back to our youth, or to the home of a loved one.
For Henry Lee, the open parasol takes him back to the 1940s. Henry is raised by a father who wants his Chinese son to be an “American” at all costs. Henry through a “Scholarship” is sent to school where the “American/White” kids ignore him. But there is one person who does not ignore him and that it a young Japanese girl named Keiko. They form a friendship. A type of young love if you will. Sweet and innocent. But then Keiko and her family are rounded up and she is whisked away.
Henry wonders “Is this her Parasol?” Could more of her families belongings be inside? Can he come to terms with what happened so long ago? Can he rebuild her relationship with his son?
I thought this book was really good. Such a great book club book. So many discussions to be had. There are elements of friendship, love, loss, betrayal, longing, guilt, loneliness, etc.
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I loved this book, but I had one minor annoyance with it. The author had 4 anachronisms: the book is set (in part) in 1986, and yet the son is in an “on-line” grief support group, and used the internet to look up a lost friend, and there is talk twice about digital conversion of records to CDs.
This book is told by a 50+ year old second generation Chinese-American. It is told in two different time periods, and flows back and forth between the 1940’s to 1986 seemlessly. It is the story of a young chinese boy who is thrown together with a young japanese girl in Seattle during WW2. It is the story of their friendship/love, and also that of the other relationships that the boy has: his Chinese parents, a local black jazz musician, and later with his own son and son’s fiance. Very well written, and very touching.
It gave an interesting insight into the Chinese views of the war, along with the effects, and the aftermath, of the Japanese internment on the Seattle area.
Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an easy book to get swept into. Henry Lee’s search into his past is triggered by a discovery , at the Panama Hotel, of belongings from Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during WWII. Among those belongings, Henry is hoping to find one specific memory which connects him to the love of his youth, the Japanese-American girl, Keiko Okabe. Can Henry recover what he’s lost 40 years ago? After all those years, will it even look the same? Both the Chinese and especially the Japanese districts of Seattle (and the people who move within them) come alive in Ford’s moving story. With echoes of Edith Wharton transposed to a different time and place, family, tradition and friendship highlight this beautifully crafted historical novel.
Great to meet Jamie Ford at the High Plains Bookfest in Billings in October!
This was my first ever audiobook. It was a good choice, listening to it being read with Chinese accents from Henry and his family made it even more interesting.
This is the story of Henry, an American born Chinese American and his family, including his dogmatic and anti-Japanese father.
Keiko is a second generation Japanese American.
The two meet in a special school where they have won scholarships because of their high intellect. They are the two OUTCASTS in an otherwise all white school. It is the height of the war an there is much hatred towards the Japanese. The two are very young, only about 12 and 13 but they build a strong friendship. Henry has to lie in order to see Keiko, her family has no problem with Henry.
Then the bill is signed that sent thousands of Japanese from the west coast, in this case Seattle, to internment camps, many in Colorado. The two try to keep in touch but eventually the ties are broken
Henry never gets over Keiko and when his present wife dies he eventually tracks her down, with the help of his son. The two have a final poignant meeting.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all fans of historical fiction.
Set in Seattle, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet tells of the forbidden friendship between a Chinese-American boy named Henry Lee and a Japanese-American girl named Keiko Okabe during the Second World War. Henry and Keiko are both just twelve years old when they become friends in 1942. Life is difficult for both of them. They face racism and prejudice on a daily basis and Henry’s father does not approve of the friendship. After the devastation of Pearl Harbour, the US government decides to send all the people of Japanese decent to live in internment camps until the war is over. Henry and Keiko find themselves separated.
I really loved this book! Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a beautiful, fascinating, tender and moving story from beginning to end. Like the title suggests, the story is such a bitter-sweet tale, heartbreaking at times and so warm and sweet in others. This novel is set during two time periods, the 1940’s and 1986. I found both periods equally compelling to read about. It is incredibly rare to find a historical fiction novel about World War Two that isn’t set in Europe! Before reading this book, I knew nothing about how badly the Japanese in America were treated during the war. I was quite shocked by this. I have to admit I cried a few times while reading this book!
All the characters were vivid, well-developed and realistic. I really loved the characters of Henry, Keiko and Sheldon, and really cared about what happened to them. I’ve just got one gripe with the novel. I would have liked to know what happened in Keiko’s life during the intervening years while they were apart.
I found it really hard to put this novel down and I look forward to reading more from this author!
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