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Hotel on the Corner ofBitter and Sweet –Jaime Ford

January 15th, 2010

hotel

Read: January 7 – 13, 2010
Overview: Loved it by the end
Read again? Possibly

In 1942 in Seattle, a young Chinese-American boy meets a young Japanese-American girl. This novel reflects on the ideas of patriotism, racism, and love during the days of the Japanese internment camps in World War II.

Initially slow for me to love, by the last few pages, I found myself wishing the story would continue.

Spoiler Alert: If you’re going to read this, don’t read any futher! I tell all!

Jaime Ford’s novel begins with Henry, a Chinese-American man living in Seattle in the 80s. The Panama Hotel has just been purchased, and a shocking discovery is made. The basement is full of suitcases and boxes and bags, containing the most precious photos and beloved items from Japanese families who had been ‘evacuated’ to internment camps during the later days of WWII. For the first few chapters, we’re not clear why this discovery meant so much to Henry, but we soon find out that his first love – even before he knew what love was – was a Japanese girl named Keiko, one of the thousands who were put into the camps.

As the story progresses, Ford switches between the war days and the 80s, as Henry falls in love in the past, and moves slowly through the present world, searching for a precious record that he gave to Keiko and taking care of the eldery jazz saxophonist who became his friend as a child.

While the ultimate outcome of the plot – that Henry indeed be able to find the record, and seek out Keiko after forty years – could be predicted, the way the story gradually unfolds is beautiful, compelling and full of hope.

The only real criticism of the book, for me, is that Henry’s dialog can come across as too staged, too awkward. I could easily hear his ‘voice’ when reading the exposition, but when he spoke, it sounded less like conversation and just like more exposition. His quiet personality was so clear through the book, and I wanted the dialog to be equally reflective.

I wouldn’t place “Hotel” on the list of my top ten reads ever, but it is one of those rare stories where the final chapters are perfectly crafted and entirely satisfying. Initially slow to get into, the more I read, the more I was compelled to keep reading. By the end, I found myself closing the book and smiling through slightly teary eyes.

(Also posted on Shelfari.)

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2 Responses to “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jaime Ford”

  1. Ivete Says:

    I actually put this book down about half-way through over a month ago but now I’m going to go finish it based on what you wrote! Thanks!

  2. Annegret Says:

    Wow, you are so fast. I just started to read a new book, only a few pages because I had not engough time. And you now comment of the next. I will keep in mind your comments.

    Annegret

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