Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford
Book 34 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
rating: 3 of 5 stars
The book world is buzzing about this novel. I really wanted to love it. Heck, I even bought it! Don't get me wrong--I liked it. But, there are some 'buts' attached.
This novel provides unique perspective on a period of American history we don't talk much about. Set in Seattle, the books switches back and forth between 1942 and 1986. In 1942, Henry is 12, the son of Chinese immigrants who truly want the best for their son. So, they send him on a scholarship to a mostly white prep school where he meets Keiko, another scholarship student. Keiko is second generation American, but ethnically from Japan. Henry's father despises the Japanese and, as American sentiment turns against those of Japanese ancestry, Henry is forced to confront racism head on in defense of his friend. In 1986, Henry is in his late 50s, recovering from the shock of losing his wife Ethel six months earlier to cancer. He has a strained relationship with his son, Marty, that he knows stems from the communication problems he had with his own parents growing up.
The concept of this book is commendable and intriguing. But I found the story to be too sentimental, predictable, and in some parts, unbelievable. Henry and Keiko seemed WAY too mature for 12 year olds. I know it was a different time, but I just didn't buy their relationship or their involvement in the Seattle jazz scene of the 1940s. And don't even get me started on the anachronisms (Internet support groups in 1986? Brandon Lee buried in a cemetery 7 years before he actually died?). I figure if the author can't get 1986 right, what hope do I have that he represented the war years accurately?
This is the first novel written by Jamie Ford and I do think his writing shows promise. Definitely look into this book if you have interest in the internment of Japanese citizens during WW2, or if you are from Seattle. I hope that in Ford's next book, he trusts his audience a little more and makes his plot a little less obvious...and that he gets a better editor.
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