Skip to content
Hardcover Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Book

ISBN: 0345505336

ISBN13: 9780345505330

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Select Format

Select Condition ThriftBooks Help Icon


Format: Hardcover

Condition: Good

Save $20.81!
List Price $26.00
12 Available

Book Overview

Sentimental, heartfelt....the exploration of Henry's changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages...A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don't repeat those injustices.-- Kirkus Reviews

"A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner...

Customer Reviews

10 ratings

This is a very good book to read. I found it to be very interesting

The book takes you from present time to years ago. That is pretty much I can say without giving it away

Hotel at the corner of bitter and sweet

The triumph of the determination of the characters to overcome conflict and choose love and family

Good Read

Very enjoyable book and well written, new author that I had not read before.

Loved it

Loved this book so much. It was very thought provoking!

This story brought the humanity to an often ignored part of American history.

Made Me So Happy I Cried

This is Henry Lee's story. He's fifty-six. He's a Chinese American. His wife has been dead for six months due to cancer. He has a strained relationship with his college age son, but not so strained as he thinks. He's sort of moping through life, not expecting much, not giving much. He's a lover of jazz, a collector of old jazz records. He's been looking for a rare and out of print jazz record by Oscar Holden his whole life. This is his obsession. Then one day he chances upon the Panama Hotel. It's been boarded up ever since World War II, but it's recently been bought and the new owners have found the personal effects of several Japanese families who had been forceable evacuated to relocation centers in 1942. He sees something that reminds him of a girl he once loved and he has reason to suspect a copy of that record he's been looking for is in that basement. And now we go back to 1942. Henry is twelve. He's going to Rainer Elementary, an all white prep school his father is making him attend, because he wants him to be a real American. He is being picked on by a bully who has been held back a couple grades. His father hates the Japanese. He hates jazz and all modern music as well. Actually, just about all the white people in Seattle have a thing for the Japanese, because of the war. Henry's father makes him wear a button proclaiming him to be Chinese. A new girl comes to school and now Henry isn't the only non-white there and he falls in love. Her name is Keiko. She's Japanese. So Mr. Ford has sown the seeds of conflict and there's going to be plenty in this sad and joyful novel. These characters leapt off the pages, right into my heart. I felt Henry's pain when he was separated from Keiko and I so wanted them to reunite when the war finished, but it was not to be, so I kept reading, getting more and more involved with these story people. When I finished I was so happy I cried.

Love Triumphs Over All

It's 1986 in Seattle and Chinese American Henry Lee has been mourning the death of his wife for the last six months when he happens across a crowd gathering in front of the Panama Hotel, a building that has been boarded up for forty years. It seems that when the Japanese living in the area had been rounded up during 1942 and sent off to camps, several family's stored their belonging in the hotel basement. Henry sees a parasol and wonders could it have belonged to a girl he loved as a child. He wonders what else might be in that basement. The the book takes us back to 1942 and we seen Henry as a twelve year old. He's the only Chinese child in an all white prep school. He's being bullied. His father makes him wear a button that says, "I am Chinese", because he doesn't want him mistaken for the dreaded Japanese who live close by in Nihonmachi or in English, Japan Town. Then another non white student is accepted to the school, Japanese American Keiko Okabe and since they are both the target of the bullies, they form a bond that eventually leads to much more. But sadly, eventually Keiko's family is rounded up along with thousands of other Japanese families and they are sent to a relocation camp. This book tells the history of the period without ever preaching. We learn about the camps and see the racism of the times through the eyes of children and it's shocking. We see both the best and the worst of human relationships. We see a father turn away from his son when his son needs him the most and we see another father give his son his approval when the son least expects it. And we ultimately learn that love triumphs over all. Oh if only it could be so in real life.

A Bittersweet Coming of Age Story

This story opens in 1986 in Seattle with fifty-six-year-old Chinese American Henry Lee walking past the old Panama Hotel, where he sees that the new owners are bringing out some things they've discovered in the basement. Among them he sees a Japanese parasol that once belonged to a girl named Keiko, someone he cared very deeply about. These are things Japanese families had to leave behind when they were taken away to America's concentration camps forty years earlier, during the Second World War. Henry has been searching for a very rare and long out of print jazz record that a friend had recorded back in Nineteen and Forty-Two, when Henry was twelve years old. These things are from another time, but it's a time Henry has not forgotten. In 1942 Henry was the only Chinese student in an all white school. The kids tormented him, because he looked Japanese and we were at war. His father, a man who loathed everything Japanese, made a button for Henry that said, "I am Chinese." It was embarrassing. He was bullied at school. The first day they stole his lunch, so everyday thereafter he gave his lunch to a street playing black jazz saxophonist, named Sheldon. A man he'd be friends with forever. Henry works at in the school cafeteria, serving the white kids. One day a new person, Keiko Okabe, is there working with him. She's Japanese and a new student in the school. They form an instant friendship. They're only twelve, but they know the hazards their friendship can cause, still they risk it. Henry introduces Keiko to Sheldon and one day they go to an alley outside a club where Sheldon is playing with Jazzman Oscar Holden. Holden sees them, invites them in and dedicates a song to them, which he later records. This is the record Henry spends four decades looking for, the record he hopes is in that basement, for it is their song, his and Keiko's. Keiko bought him the record, but he couldn't take it home, because in addition to hating the Japanese, Henry's father hates Jazz. He's a stern guy, Henry's father. So when Keiko and her family are taken to a camp, for their own protection, the record, along with Keiko, is lost to Henry. He is able to visit her and he gets his first kiss and they promise to write and he promises to wait. But he's only thirteen now and when her letters stop coming, he moves on, meets a postal worker named Ethel, who is Chinese, much to his father's delight. And they marry. Forty years later, six months before Henry sees Keiko's parasol at the Panama Hotel, Ethel dies of lung cancer. Can Henry make things right? Can he fix his life? Is that record in that basement? Can he find Keiko again? Should he? These are all questions that kept me turning the pages of this bittersweet coming of age story. Young love, it's the finest thing there is.

A story of hope

As I wipe my teary eyes, I am amazed at the extraordinary journey I have just experienced reading Jamie Ford's "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet." The hotel is the Panama Hotel, an old dilapidated landmark in Seattle. It's 1986 and 56-year-old Henry Lee is among the onlookers who witness the unveiling of recently discovered belongings left in the basement of the hotel by Japanese families in the 1940s. To Henry, however, the trunks, suitcases and crates and their contents are not just mere curiosities or historical artifacts. For him, they bring remembrances of the World War II years, of being twelve years old and trying to fit in an all-white school while following Chinese cultural traditions at home; of being Asian and his father's dread that he would be confused with the enemy, the Japanese. Most importantly, they bring back memories of a special friendship with Keiko, the only other kid of Asian ethnicity in school. As Ford deftly switches the narrative from 1986 to the 1940s and vice versa, the readers are taken through a remarkable story that is both sweet and poignant. For me, it brought history to life. All too often we forget that behind the numbers, there were individuals and lives that were deeply affected by the fear, the uncertainty and the hatred. I confess that there were many moments that I was on the verge of tears, such as when young Henry looks on Japanese American families burning their personal belongings for fear that they would be accused of cooperating with Japan or when Keiko and Henry witness the "evacuation" of Bainbridge Island. I also felt moved by Henry, the adult, who is still reeling from the death of his wife. His inability to emotionally connect with his own son, and his struggle to find his own identity as both American and Chinese are familiar to me as I'm too the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Ford's novel is a story with many layers. But I was most impressed and touched by the author's honest and unflinching portrayal of the sentiments that pervaded the years after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sentiments that led to acts and events that we would rather trivialized or forget today. The fact that they were acted out not only by adults but also by children made them more painful to read about. I highly recommend this novel to those who remember their first love, have heard about the Japanese American internment camps, or strive to bridge two cultural worlds and to those who just love a good story. To all of you, there is a room waiting at the "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet."

One of my favorite books ever

I was excited to read this book because I knew it was set in Seattle during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and that's a time period that has always interested me. I expected an interesting trip through history, but what I got was so, so much more than that. Henry Lee is still mourning the death of his wife when he learns that the belongings of Japanese Americans hidden in the basement of Seattle's Panama Hotel for decades have been discovered. Henry is drawn to the basement, and what he's searching for there opens a door he thought he had closed forever. The story switches back and forth between 1986 and the 1940s, when a 12-year-old Henry attending an American school (he's "scholarshipping" as his father likes to say) meets another international student working in the school kitchen. Keiko is Japanese American, the enemy according to Henry's father, but the two become best friends before her family is imprisoned in one of the relocation camps. This book does a phenomenal job exploring the history and attitudes of this time period, and Ford's portrayal of Seattle's ethnic neighborhoods is amazing. But really, the thing that pulled me into this novel the most was the richness of the relationships -- Henry and Keiko, Henry and his father, Henry's mother and his father, and Henry and his own son. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET looks at the best and worst of human relationships, the way we regard others, the way we find ourselves reenacting our relationships with our parents with our own children, the choices we make along the way. Mostly, though, this book reminds us that there is always room -- and time -- for forgiveness and redemption. I finished this book in tears, moved by the people who came to life so vividly in this story and sad that it had to end at all. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET is a perfect, perfect choice for book clubs or for anyone craving a compelling story about human nature at its worst and at its best. An amazing, amazing book. It will be one of your favorites, I can almost promise.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Mentions in Our Blog

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in Twitterpated
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 04, 2024

It's hard to beat the excitement of falling in love—especially first love. It's intoxicating and all-consuming—that sense of full-throated euphoria that makes you want to shout from the rooftops. As we look ahead toward Valentine's Day, we're highlighting fifteen heartfelt novels about first love.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in 20 Must-Read Picks for Every Book Club
20 Must-Read Picks for Every Book Club
Published by Violet • July 31, 2019
Choosing a book for your book club to read can be challenging. You want books that are thought-provoking and intelligent but still approachable. To get you started, we've put together a list of 20 sure-fire conversation starters, ranging from the best contemporary literature to historical fiction, memoirs, and history.
Copyright © 2023 Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Do Not Sell/Share My Personal Information | Cookie Policy | Cookie Preferences | Accessibility Statement
ThriftBooks® and the ThriftBooks® logo are registered trademarks of Thrift Books Global, LLC
GoDaddy Verified and Secured