April 2024
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Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford

While walking one day, Henry Lee spies a crowd of people around a closed down hotel, marveling at the artifacts discovered within – remnants of those who were rounded up and sequestered in concentration camps during World War II.  Henry, sore from losing his wife, Ethel, can hardly contain his hope as these belongings may just provide a link with his past, when he loved a beautiful Japanese girl and was convinced that everything would work out.

I loved this book.  It’s always fun to start a review with that sentence, isn’t it?  I can’t say I was hooked from the first page, but somewhere around when Henry meets Keiko, I fell in love and couldn’t wait to read more.   I really didn’t, I finished it in only two days.  Ford’s writing is lovely and he gives us a lot of history to think about.  The Japanese internment during World War II is one of those murky areas of American history that, to be honest, was skipped over throughout my education.  I only knew about it because a friend’s grandmother was imprisoned at first and have since come across it in other novels.  It’s always appalled me; rounding up American citizens just because of their ancestry is disgusting.  I was very interested in the exploration of it here, particularly the concerned Chinese citizens trying not to get arrested themselves.

Anyway, enough with the history!  I really loved this book because it had a wonderful mix of sadness and hope, perfectly capturing bittersweet.  It made me feel nostalgic for a past so distant from my own life that it’s like they lived in another country, even though I’m sure I wouldn’t want to have lived it.  The title is so appropriate.  Watching the story unfold is like listening to beautiful music, but with that edge of tension in it.  I wanted to know what happened and I raced through it.  I can’t wait to read this one again and savor it.

Highly recommended.  Beautiful, bittersweet story and fascinating, important history.

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