Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Released: 2009
Pages: 306
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5


Henry Lee, a Chinese-American has recently lost his wife to cancer. He is dealing with the heartache of being a widow and trying to spend time with his son Marty. Henry and his son have a strained relationship that Henry would like to rectify. He doesn’t want to make the same mistakes his father did, he wants to keep the lines of communication open, and he knows that his wife was the one who buffered their relationship. Without her, Henry will need to figure out how to be the father he wants to be. Henry grew up with traditional Chinese parents, a mother who obeyed her husband and a father who remained loyal to China. He despised the Japanese and never fully embraces American life. Henry disobeyed his father by befriending a Japanese girl at school, and his life is forever changed when his parents find out. The Panama Hotel has been boarded up for decades, and renovations have uncovered belongings that were once hidden by Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans who were rounded up and sent to internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  When Henry hears about these belongings he immediate thinks of his Japanese friend Keiko and her family.  


Henry grew up wearing an “I Am Chinese” button, going to a private school on scholarship and being the only minority. When Keiko shows up to school, Henry is standoffish knowing his father’s hatred for the Japanese. When their friendship begins to blossom, being the only two non-white kids in school, Henry has no choice but to keep her a secret. Henry stands in the middle of his father being ecstatic with the rounding up of the Japanese people, and being scared for Keiko and her family. Henry is forced to grow up quickly, and make his own conclusions about the Japanese.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet explores Henry’s past and present relationships and how his past shapes his future.

Jamie Ford switches between two narratives, present 1986 and past 1940’s. Readers are taken on a remarkable journey filled with love, hatred, confusion and heartbreak. I highly recommend this one; it would certainly appeal to those who love historical fiction and those who just love a good well-rounded story. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet surpassed my expectations, and I will certainly read Jamie Ford’s newest novel Songs of the Willow Frost. This book is truly captivating and will open your eyes. 


  1. I've had this book way too long and need to make the time to read it. It sounds like a book I'd love!

  2. I must dig out my copy of Hotel and read it too. I've just finished Songs of Willow Frost and it's quite a story. I highly recommend it.

  3. My book club is considering it so I'm happy you're recommending it!

  4. I loaned my copy before reading it and now can't remember who has it!! Nice to know you liked it.

  5. I'm glad to see you liked this one as much as I did!

  6. Mrs. Q, I also enjoyed this book a great deal. It's supposed to be made into a movie--or maybe that's already been done! I was fortunate to be able to interview the author of this book, Jamie Ford, a while ago, which gave me more insights into the book.