Friday, March 4, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Book Review

When I picked up Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to read last week, I figured I would finish it in a day or two. It was going to be quick filler while I waited for my book club book to arrive in the mail. The book is not very long and I had heard such good things about it.

It turns out that every time I sat down to read this week my eye lids would get heavy and within minutes I would be sound asleep. It took me a full week to read it. This, however, should not reflect poorly on the book. In fact, it turned out to be a blessing because this is a book meant to be savored.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is Jamie Ford's debut novel. I've been hearing about it for awhile and I added it as an after thought to my amazon book order a few months ago to get my cost up to $25 for the free shipping. (This was just before I found out how to get Amazon Prime for free.)

Henry is a twelve year old Chinese boy living in Seattle and attending a white school on a scholarship when he becomes friends with Keiko, a Japanese girl who is the only other non-white in the school. They work together in the cafeteria and develop a close friendship as they try to ignore the taunts and ridicules from their classmates. It is a sweet relationship but also a forbidden one. For it is World War II. The Japanese are hated and even American citizens who are Japanese by descent are suspected of being spies. Also, Henry's father hates the Japanese and Henry has been restricted from associating with the Japanese.

Henry and Keiko continue to grow close even as the Japanese, including Keiko's family are rounded up and moved into internment camps first in the fair grounds near Seattle and eventually at a camp in Idaho. Henry, in love, promises to wait.

This novel is fabulous! It is beautiful, sweet and bitter (the title is perfect), romantic and emotionally stirring. I adored the characters and even though it is often easy to scoff at adolescent love, their feelings are strong and their reactions completely believable. The setting, characters and plot weave together so perfectly with Ford's style to create a subtle masterpiece.

It is also, for my more sensitive friends, completely and refreshingly clean. I'm anxious to discuss the multiple themes and facets of this book, so don't be surprised if I start forcing everyone I know to read it. You'll thank me.


Heidi said...

One of my favorite books! I'm so excited for his new book coming soon!!!

alisonwonderland said...

One of my favorite reads of last year - one I've recommended to a lot of people.