Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book review- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

The discovery of personal belongings of Japanese-American families sent to internment camps during WWII in the basement of the Panama Hotel in Seattle triggers Henry Lee's memories of childhood and his long-lost childhood friend and sweetheart. His best friend at the American school was Keiko Okabe, the only other nonwhite kid that attended. Henry is forever a loyal and dedicated friend despite numerous obstacles, including separation, discrimination and family disapproval.

The novel jumps from the time of the war to 1986. Which usually I don't like, but here it works well in setting the tone of the book. You get to see him as a young kid and experience his life in Chinatown and around Japantown of Seattle during this difficult and sad time in American history. You then see how different his life is as an adult and parent as he searches for items that once belonged to Keiko. I loved seeing the relationship between Henry and his son Marty change during this time of discovery and searching. It just shows how many misunderstandings and assumptions kids make about their parents. Marty comes to see his dad in a whole new way and Henry finds he is not over losing his friend so long ago thanks to his son.

So many emotions were brought out in me while reading this book. Anger at the kids who terrorized Henry and Keiko at their school and at the cruelty of adults towards Americans who were very much loyal citizens. Sadness when reading about the loss of so many personal belongings, memories and heirlooms. Hope that future generations of these families will never have to experience such prejudices and hatred in their lifetimes. Happiness in young love and finding lost loves.  A beautiful story I recommend to everyone. 

"He'd do what he always did, find the sweet among the bitter." Page 265.


WWII Challenge

About the Author:

Career-wise, Jamie went to art school in Seattle to become an illustrator, and ended up an art director/copywriter. He's won an embarrassingly large amount of meaningless awards including 400+ Addys, 7 Best-of-Shows, and his work has appeared in Adweek, Advertising Age, Graphis and Communication Arts. He also had a commercial appear on an episode of The U.K.'s Funniest Commercials inspired by an embarrassing incident with a bidet that he'd rather not go into right now.

On the writerly side, he won the 2006 Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest, was First Runner-Up in the 2006 Midnight Road Reader's Choice Awards and was a Top-25 finalist in Glimmer Train's Fall 2006 Short Story Award For New Writers. He's been published in The Picolata Review, and his fiction is online at Flashing in the Gutters and Fictional Musings. He's also an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a survivor of Orson Scott Card's Literary Bootcamp.

Jamie's debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was released by Ballantine--January 27, 2009.

On the personal side, he's the proud father of two boys and two girls. Yep, it's chaos, but the good kind of chaos.

For more information about the author or his work, please visit


  1. This has such a beautiful cover and I've heard so many good things about it, but I'm still not sure I want to read it. I'm not much into war fiction or historical fiction. But everyone says it's so good. I'm torn.

  2. This sounds like it will make me angry too, but I'm adding it to my list. Thanks for the wonderful review and recommendation!

  3. I keep seeing this and I have heard so much about it, but I still want to read it too.

  4. Hi Mari--thanks for the review!

    I just did an event at Seattle Central this morning and there were several members of the audience that were born in Minidoka--it was truly humbling to speak with them and hear their stories. I can only hope that I did them justice...

    Best to all!


  5. Amanda- I liked that the book focused more on the people than the events themselves and the war. You should give it a shot. :)

    stacybuckeye-I hope you enjoy it.

    Scrap girl- I had been hearing a lot about it too and was glad to finally get a copy.

    Jamie- Your very welcome. I was very happy to read it. I had been hearing great things. It must have been amazing to have people there at the event that lived there. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  6. Had another event tonight at Parkplace Books in Kirkland. Met a man from the Nisei Veterans Committee who invited me to the Minidoka Pilgrimage this year...I was truly humbled and honored. What a night!

  7. Jamie- Sounds like a another wonderful event. Glad to see that you are getting great turnouts.

    Diane and Alyce- It was a great book. :)

  8. I've heard nothing but good things about this book, and I can't wait to read it and find out for myself.

    I've posted about your review here.

    Diary of an Eccentric


Thanks for taking the time to comment! :)