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.


  1. please enter me into the contest, I follow you on Google



  2. (Don't enter me.)

    I didn't really find this one meandering, but I think any meshing of a present day storyline and a past one is difficult.

  3. Tweet! Tweet!


    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

  4. I would love to win this book. Thanks for the chance.

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

  5. I have not read this book, but have heard many great reviews. I would love to win a copy.

    I always say everything happens for a reason and I would go back and change everything, but then I would be lying to my heart. My 15 yr old passed away in an auto accident (it will be 4 years on Feb 10th). I would love to go back and prevent that from happening, but I that would probably be very selfish of me.

    Thanks so much for the chance at winning this book.

    [email protected]

  6. There's just a few times from my childhood that I'd like to change. You know, times when you allowed cowardice to result in someone being hurt. Like a kid being picked on that you didn't stand up for, or a time when you let some other kid take the fall for something you did. Things like that. Those are my most shameful moments that I'd love to go back and change.

  7. Denny, Alaska says

    Can I say that there's really nothing major in my life that I would go back and change? Thanks for entering my name in your giveaway.


  8. nge where I went to college.


  9. I really liked your review and I would like to give this book a try. If I could revisit a time in my life I'd love to go back to the days I spent working as a prosecutor in the Districy Attorney's Office which I really enjoyed.

    Thank you for hosting a great giveaway!

    Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

  10. Rebecca Graham says

    If I could go back, I probably would not have married.

    rhoneygtn at yahoo dot com

  11. I shared this giveaway on Facebook:


    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

  12. I tweeted:


    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

  13. Please enter me in this giveaway!

    One moment in my past I'd like to change would be my decision to not attend a professional conference last year that would have been very important to my future.

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

  14. I would have had a different major in college, but hey, life works out.

    Ruthjoec at aoldotcom

  15. Serena..I loved this book. It was one of my Top Pics for 2009. I did a review then after receiving an ARC that I requested. When the book was published I was sent a hardcover of the book. I cherish it. Sorry you didn't like it. I always love to hear what you say. Thanks.

    I don't need to be entered into the drawing.

  16. wheresmyrain says

    i would love to revisit my first year ofjunior high….for many reasons

    [email protected]

  17. I've had this on my shelf for ages but haven't read it yet. I was hoping to sometime this year. I'm going to post this on my sidebar for you.

  18. When I was a freshman in college, I quit my first semester and went back to my hometown to attend a Jr. college there. I wish I had toughed it out and stayed at the four year college. I was just very homesick.
    Plese enter me for this book! I have heard a lot about it. Thank you for having this giveaway!

    [email protected]

  19. Haleyknitz says

    I'd love to win. if i could re-visit something in my past, i don't care what it would be as long as i was in between the ages of 3-7. back when everything was simple and everything made perfect sense.

  20. i'm interested in this book…thanks for the opportunity to read it…i'm not sure what i would like to change…


  21. Sandra K321 says

    I like books that are set in the past that gives you a feel for the period. If I could go back and revisit a time, it would be when my grandfather was still alive.

  22. Jamie Ford says

    Hi Serena,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and honest review. 🙂



  23. Excellent and honest review Serena.

  24. I always say this when seeing a review of this book but I just love that cover.

    And I would like to try it myself (if I win your giveaway).

    One moment? When I got married the first time. Big mistake, eventually corrected but it would have been easier had it not been made.

  25. Don't enter me because I've already read this one. I really enjoyed this one.

  26. amanda18228 says

    I tweeted. http://twitter.com/amandawk/status/8392153617
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

  27. amanda18228 says

    One thing I would change is to make up my mind of what I wanted to do in life earlier.
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

  28. I thought the war years were the best too, but I did enjoy getting to see how his life had turned out.

    No need to enter me since I've read it already.

  29. I would have gotten out and explored more while living in Oxford instead of constantly worrying about my studies. In my defense, though, I managed a near-4.0 that semester!


  30. Susan Helene Gottfried says

    No need to enter me, babe. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the thoughtful review, as always, and for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you!

  31. Serena, oh my goodness, no apologies necessary!!!

    Thanks for a lovely review. I personally don't mind a story that is 'slow to boil' and this subject matter really interests me, so please enter me in the drawing!

    Thank you so much for all the time you put into reading and reviewing Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It is greatly appreciated.

  32. Books that go from the past to present can be a bumpy ride. People change and obviously some parts of their lives are more exciting than others.

  33. Scrappy Cat says

    I would love to read this book – I don't mind slow. My do-over would be to have majored in library science instead of accounting in college – over 30 years ago. Since I'm retired now, it doesn't really matter now, but that realization hit me a year or two ago.

  34. Don't include me in the giveaway as I already have a copy. Don't been yourself up over being a day late. Everyone in the blogosphere knows how conscientious you are. I read this book way back, but we are reading this book for our February book club.

  35. I would like to read this one. Please include me. One thing I'd like to change is the interview I had on Tuesday. Hate interviews.

    dlodden at frontiernet dot net

  36. thekoolaidmom says

    Well, yes.. I guess the ending was a little predictable, but it made me smile and feel warm all the same 🙂

    I do see what you're saying about the current day -versus- war-time narrations, but I saw the book, as a whole, more a story about a man connecting and understanding his father, so those things didn't bother me.

    I hadn't thought of it, but I guess it is a crock pot story, slow to boil.

  37. Sorry you were disappointed by the book. I really enjoyed it, even though, like Sandy, I thought the ending was predictable.

    I'll put the giveaway in my sidebar for you

    Diary of an Eccentric

  38. Sandy Nawrot says

    I listened to this book on audio, which may have made the meandering less obvious. It had excellent narration, and I had a hard time putting it down. My only quibble was that it was so totally predictable at the end. Still, it was very sweet, so I forgave it a little.


  1. […] recall, I recently reviewed Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (click for my review).  Ford was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share with us a sneak […]