Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

First, I want to apologize to the author, TLC Book Tours, and the publisher for failing to meet my deadline for this review.  I think this is one of the only times I’ve missed a deadline, and in my defense, I erroneously wrote today as my tour date and not yesterday.  Clearly, my mind was not focused!  I apologize.  OK, on with my review.

Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a pot of water on the stove that takes a long time to boil.  Henry Lee is the main protagonist, but really his story happens nearly 45 years in the past, and those are the chapters that breathe and live.  Much of the present day (1986) life of Henry Lee is somber and lifeless.

“He’d meant to finish it when his son, Marty, went away to college, but Ethel’s condition had worsened and what money they’d saved for a rainy day was spent in a downpour of medical bills, a torrent that lasted nearly a decade.”  (Page 8)

The death of his wife, Ethel, from cancer six months before happens early on in the book.  Readers are left with a drifting character who really doesn’t find his way into his own story for about 100 or more pages.  When we finally delve into his young love with Keiko, the story blossoms into an emotional torrent, especially when they are ripped apart from each other.

Discrimination is on every page given that in 1942 the United States was drawn into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  For Henry’s father, the war began many years before when Japan invaded his homeland.  Henry and his father have a tenuous relationship — a relationship that is mirrored in the present between Henry and his own son, Marty. 

“‘He was vehemently against all things Japanese.  Even before Pearl Harbor, the war in China had been going on for almost ten years.  For his son to be frequenting that other part of town — Japantown — would have been bad form.  Shameful to him . . . ‘”  (Page 105)

Readers will appreciate the immersion into war-time America with its simmering angst against Asians — not just the Japanese — and the plight of those second generation Asians who try to maintain their livelihoods and tout their American loyalties in a nation that increasingly wanted to get rid of any reminder of war.  Overall, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a meandering novel about love, growing up, dealing with discrimination, and more, but in a way readers may find that the sequencing of events and alternating chapters between present day Henry and his younger persona could have been executed better.  In many cases the present day chapters take away from those during the war years, halting the narrative and adding little to the story’s arc.

About the Author:

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Having grown up near Seattle’s Chinatown, he now lives in Montana with his wife and children.  Check out his Website or the BitterSweet Blog.

To Enter the Giveaway for 1 copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Sorry, US/Canada only):

1.  Leave a comment on this post about one moment in your past you’d like to revisit or change.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. the giveaway and leave a link in the comments.

Deadline is Feb. 5, 2010 at 11:59PM EST


FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet from the publisher for a TLC Book Tour and review.  Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

This is my 6th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

If you are interested in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, please check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour.