Saturday, December 21, 2019

Both Bitter and Sweet, Sweeping Historical Novel Tells Clean, Touching Story

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In 1986, an extraordinary discovery in Seattle's Japantown draws a crowd of people, among them a 56-year-old Chinese-American named Henry Lee.  The widower is as amazed as everyone else to discover that The Paragon Hotel, which has been shuttered for decades, has been hiding a large, dusty collection of belongings left behind during World War II when Japanese families were forced out of Seattle and into internment camps.  Watching the event takes Henry back forty years, to his clandestine friendship with Keiko Okabe, a Japanese girl he met at school in 1942.  Outcasts among their white classmates, the two form a strong friendship that turns into a sweet, but forbidden romance.  Although they vow to meet up again after the war, Henry never hears from Keiko again.  What happened to the girl he once loved?  The search for Keiko will pry open Henry's most painful memories, remind him of impossible choices and sacrifices, and maybe, finally, bring him and his son together.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford's bestselling debut novel, tells a sweeping story of family, friendship, and finding what's been lost.  Vivid period detail brings to life Seattle's China and Japantown in the 1940s, making the story feel immersive and authentic.  The idea of abandoned family treasures left behind in a hotel to bear witness of a sad chapter in America's history is as intriguing as it is heartbreaking.  I found it an irresistible premise, even if the story itself gets a little long and dull.  Although the tale left me with unanswered questions, overall, I enjoyed it.  It didn't blow my socks off like it has for other readers, but I liked the clean, bittersweet tale that is, ultimately, a hopeful one.  I'll definitely check out more books by Ford.

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

3 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this book when I read it a few years ago. It's a time period I enjoy and I didn't know much about the era in Seattle so found it interesting.

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  2. I've read this one and found it to be really bittersweet and very touching. Thanks for this review.

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