Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)

     It's been a week since I finished Jamie Ford's debut novel and my thoughts have been languishing in my edit box.  There is something about writing a review about certain books, good books, books that I really liked that make it difficult.  I don't know why it is but I'm going to push forward and just do it! 

The story:

Henry Lee, a Chinese-American tells his story, alternating between 1942 and 1986, and his friendship with Keiko, a Japanese-American girl and the only other Asian student at his all-white school.  Keiko and Henry quickly become friends as they ward off bullies and work in the kitchen "scholarshipping" together. Henry's already rocky relationship with his father quickly deteriorates as his relationship with Keiko grows.  Mr. Lee is a strong Chinese nationalist and Henry's relationship with Keiko creates this chasm that can't be healed between son and father.

In the alternating 1986 Henry deals with the death of his wife, Ethel and his estranged relationship with his son, Marty.  In the opening pages of the book, Henry still living in Seattle, finds himself in front of the Panama Hotel as the new owner announces unearthing Japanese-American artifacts from the basement of the hotel as they begin a major remodel.  Henry's mind shifts back to Keiko and the events of 1942 when the Japanese community were taken to internment camps during WWII.

My thoughts:

 I loved the writing as the story came alive to me through Henry's eyes.  It's a story of a father's love, even if misplaced and how children often do the opposite of what is expected.  It's a story of young love and the thrill of being twinkle eyed about another human being.  It's the story of our country at the worst of times, as we allowed ourselves to become irrationally prejudiced against citizens based on their race.  I loved how Mr. Ford used Henry's relationship with Sheldon, an African-American saxophone player, to contrast the racial conflict already occuring for years in our country.  Japanese internment camps became our slave quarters of the second World War.  I enjoyed this book as much as Kathyrn Stockett's The Help.
I'm not a fan of Amazon (more of an indie fan) but while scouting around for information on Jamie Ford I came upon this great little author video.-scroll down past the purchasing part to the vid. part.
Jamie Ford's website-click here.
Highly Recommended-Adult Fiction
5/5 peaceful stars
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(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Awesome review; I enjoyed this as well.

nomadreader said...

I really want to read this one. I feel the appropriate time period for bestseller backlash has passed:-). I'm glad you liked it!