Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Ford, J. (2009). Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet: A novel. New York: Ballantine Books. 9780345505330

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford | LibraryThing

I glimpsed a favorable review of this book in one of those professional journals we’re expected to read at work. With my interest piqued, I requested Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet through HCPL.

The book alternates between two different time periods. In 1986, Henry Lee approaches the Panama Hotel in Seattle just as the new owner brings to light items which Japanese Americans stowed before their evacuation to the internment camps. As a recent widower, Henry’s reverie is jolted and he springs into action, baffling his grown son Marty.

The other time period is 1942, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Twelve-year old Henry lives under the thumb of his very Chinese father. His parents no longer permit him to communicate in their tongue, insisting he must speak English always. Henry is on scholarship at the white kid school and he works in the cafeteria. Here, he meets the lovely Japanese-American Keiko Okabe. Their bond transcends ethnicity as they enjoy jazz and folks that don’t look exactly like themselves.

I enjoyed this story for the most part. Ford brought Henry, Marty, and Keiko to life brilliantly. The Seattle Jazz scene also fascinated me. It’s also easy to see what motivates the characters, even Henry’s nationalist father.

My only snide remark regards Marty participating in an Internet support group in his grieving. . . in 1986! Say what? I realize Marty’s a smart guy but this is too much of a stretch.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good

Places : Seattle, Washington State, Idaho, New York City, China, Japan

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3 thoughts on “Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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