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4.4 out of 5 stars28
4.4 out of 5 stars
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2009
I stumbled upon the audio version of this book in my local library and am so glad I did. I was completely absorbed in this novel and the characters from start to finish. It is a book about belonging and the fear and ignorance that led to such prejudice in the 1940s.

This book also a book about relationships, between parents and their children, children and their peers, and between friends and lovers. Another reviewer Kate Messner said it so eloquently when she said that this book "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 must note that this book was as beautifully read as it was written. The reader, Feodor Chin was exceptional!

I hope Jamie Ford continues writing as he is an exceptionally talented author.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2009
The book begins in 1986 and follows Henry Lee, a Chinese-American whose wife has recently passed away. He is dealing with his heartache and a strained relationship with his grown-up son Marty. The Panama Hotel, a renovated hotel in what was once Seattle's Japantown, recently discovered belongings that were once hidden there by Japanese immigrants in WWII. This news sparks Henry's memories of his youth and flashbacks to the 1940s when Henry had developed a close relationship with a Japanese girl named Keiko. Henry's father however, was a strict advocate for his Chinese heritage, forcing Henry to wear a pin stating "I am Chinese" and showed a stubborn dislike of all things Japanese. Henry's relationship with Keiko, set to the backdrop of WWII, forces him to grow up quickly and make difficult and sometimes dangerous decisions in order to fight for what he believes in.

I enjoyed this story from start to finish. It is surprising that this is Jamie Ford's first novel because his writing is so professional and polished while retaining its passionate flair. Henry and Keiko are two of the most endearing characters I have ever encountered and it is hard not to feel connected to them and become deeply invested in their outcomes.

"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" also explores important issues of culture and the ramifications of prejudice, proving that there is more depth to this sweet story than meets the eye. Though it's often hard for an author to separate his or her own personal judgments and opinions, Jamie has done his best as he so eloquently states in his author's note:
"My intent was not to create a morality play, with my voice being the loudest on stage, but rather to defer to the reader's sense of justice, of right and wrong, and let the facts speak plainly."

Though there were predictable elements in the storyline, I still soaked up every detail of this novel and read it in one sitting. My emotions were tied up in the characters and I even cried at the end.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a heartwarming story that explores many issues and is ultimately filled with much needed hope!

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Henry Lee's wife has been dead for six months when he comes upon a crowd outside an old hotel that has been boarded up since the war years. The belongings of about 40 families that were sent to Japanese internment camps have been found in the basement. Henry remembers his past.

The book switches narrative from the present (well, 1985) to Henry's past when he was a boy of twelve. He met a Japanese girl the same age and they became friends but Henry's father was a staunch Chinese Nationalist and considered all Japanese the enemy since Japan had been attacking China for the last ten years.

This is a beautiful book. Beautifully written with a beautiful story to tell. It is a tale of friendship and enemies, love and hate, two very different families and the children who fall in love. Almost like World War II version of Romeo and Juliet. The story is bittersweet, hence the title, and the characters of Henry, his father, and Keiko, the American-born Japanese girl are fully realized.

I found the historical aspect fascinating. I often read World War II stories from a Chinese point of view and this was quite unique. The story was riveting and a page-turner that I couldn't put down. I don't usually read love stories, especially unrequited love, but the tale told here is simply beautiful and much more than just a love story.

The only quibble I have is that the author tried to present an unbiased point of view in regards to the Japanese internment camps and while he succeeded I would have liked a little more background on the "why?" of the situation for readers who know nothing of the Japanese atrocities of WWII. It was very briefly referred to but a little more information would have presented a truly balanced point of view.

In all, this is a wonderful tale and will be truly enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a good WWII story or Asian fiction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2010
Found this book in the library and took it home because it looked interesting. I had no idea!!

I learned so much about the american attitudes during WWII and about the civil war between the Chinese and Japanese.

This is not only a book about war, the wars are a backdrop to let us know about the characters and the characters are interesting and well developed and we get to follow them until the end.

If you liked Empire of the Sun you will like this book even more. I hope you will read it, and, if you listen to it the narrator is wonderful.
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My Review: After reading, reviewing and really enjoying Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield a year and a half ago I was eager to read more about the experiences of Japanese Americans during WWII as they were 'evacuated' to internment camps based solely on their race by their own government.

Based on the title and content of the book I think that the author was going for a touching, overly sentimental read but unfortunately I didn't think he quite got there. There was an obvious Romeo and Juliet theme to the storyline but the emotion that you'd expect to be attached to the characters' experiences was lacking and I never felt a deep emotional attachment to Henry, Keiko or their families. Honestly, Keiko's family seemed overly positive for the turmoil their family had to deal with on a daily basis and their reactions just didn't ring true for me.

While I applaud the author for making people of this generation aware of the atrocities, racial discrimination and social injustices that Seattle's Japanese Americans had to endure, I do wish (and expected) the book to deal more with what life was like in the internment camps. I was hoping for a lot more information regarding Keiko's family's experiences and felt like the author missed an opportunity by not incorporating their viewpoints.

The characters, specifically Keiko and especially Henry seemed very one-dimensional and the emotional elements were thin and overly simplistic. It had more of a middle school feel to it if I'm being honest. I also think that more time could have also been used to incorporate some of the secondary characters into the storyline more. Mrs Beatty and Sheldon were the most intriguing and believable characters in the book but sorely underused.

If you haven't guessed yet, this was just an okay read for me. I was hoping for something a lot more substantial and emotional but unfortunately there were too many situations that happened far too easily for Henry throughout the book and the anachronisms -- online support groups in 1986? -- didn't win it any points with me either. Educating people about the blatant racial discrimination of American citizens during that time is the best aspect of this book for this reader.

My Rating: 3/5 stars
*** This book review, as well as many more, can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm ( ***
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2010
I am fascinated and horrified at the period in American History covered by this book. The shamefull internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, while their possessions were taken over (stolen) by their neighbors was covered up for decades. I certainly never learned about it in school. I jumped at the opportunity to add to my knowledge of the era, but this is not the book to do it.

The novel is full of misinformation and anachronisms, so I don't trust it to provide any real information. At heart, this is the story of a pre-teen named Henry, the son of Chinese immigrants. Henry's relatives in China suffered terribly under the Japanese occupying forces, and Henry's father despises all Japanese. This is bad news when Henry falls in love with Keiko. If parental opposition isn't enough, Keiko and her family are soon sent to a concentration camp in Idaho. But Henry never forgets Keiko and Keiko never forgets Henry.

This is a great love story for the very young or ,perhaps, the very old. Anyone between 13 and 70 is going to find it a little lame, a little skewed in terms of facts, and slow going in general. There are anachronisms galore, a story line that jumps back and forth in time, but without indicating any growth or maturity on the part of the characters, and really, in the end, it's just not worth the effort to read.
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on November 16, 2013
I read the jacket notes with anticipation, as my husband & I had recently been in both China and Japan. I thought - great! - here's a book that will tell a story of the two cultures living and struggling together here in America.

I was more than a little disappointed. I felt there was so much more under the surface that wasn't written - but maybe that is truly how the two cultures actually subsist in today's world?

It was interesting in the story of the internment of the Japanese in Seattle. Probably a lot like what we had here in Canada. There was a special friendship, bound by a common interest in jazz - that was deeply touching, but this could have been so much more.
Not a bad read and, at times, very good - but could have been so much more.
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on November 2, 2013
This book was recommended to me by a friend who's father was Japanese and who lived through this era. I read it just after my return from a trip to China. It is simply but expertly written in a manor to capture the reader's interest but also to share the cultural blend of the Chinese, Japanese and American influences on the history of those early pioneers. A wonderful, warm story of a tragic part of our history.!

I am recommending this to my grandchildren who live near Seattle.
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on June 21, 2012
I recently joined a book club and was excited to read this one! I found the history about the Japanese internment camps fascinating. I'm a sucker for a good coming-of-age novel, and this one came with a beautiful love story. As a writer myself, I learned some important things about plotting from this book. It was really interesting how the author managed to tell the story from two different time periods. Highly recommended.
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on February 19, 2013
This book was recommended by a friend after I commented that I was disappointed by the Marigold Hotel book. I thought this was a beautiful love story, set in the craziness that was the U.S./Canada world war 2 times. It encompasses racism, families, love and friendship and certainly makes you think about your own relationships. I was not disappointed with this book.
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