Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

This is another excellent book that our book club read a few months ago. I loved the pace of the book - quiet and peaceful and steeped with memories - like turning the pages of your grandma's photo album. You know there is so much there right under the surface, but the years have tempered it all to a quiet hum. That is this story!

This is Henry's story, a boy in the early late 30s and early 40s. His father is a proud Chinese and sends him (with a button declaring that) to the all white school outside Chinatown in San Francisco. Henry HATES it -he is so lonely and harrassed and alienated - he doesn't fit in the English world or the Chinese one. Finally his life is made better when Keiko begins at the school also. Their friendship grows and grows - but Keiko is Japanese and Henry's father HATES Japanese more than any other group.

The WWII begins. Keiko and her family are threatened and eventually sent to an internment camp. Henry professes his love and promises to wait. And he faithfully does. Sending letters weekly over the years of Keiko's internment. And they make a promise to reunite.

But, Keiko never comes. Henry waits.

But, another love has been growing and eventually Henry chooses second best.

This is a book about hard realities and choices and continuing on. I like that the book begins with Henry as an old man. There is a hotel at the edge of Japantown and artifacts have been found in the basement. Artifacts from Japanese families sent to internment camps and never collected. Henry begin searching for Keiko's life and that is where the story begins.

This is a wonderful book. It respects the hard decisions our government and our families made without oversentimentalizing them. Instead they are treated as a matter of fact, and life continued on. This also demonstrated the deep prejudices on all sides of our country.

I would highly recommend this!

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