Book Selection 2014
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.
Jamie Ford's lyrical debut novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet begins with an event that happened in real life. In the opening pages, the fictional protagonist Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel—once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown, and still standing today. It has been boarded up for decades, but the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
This simple act takes Henry back to the 1940s, at the height of the war. Young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement. His father, obsessed with the war in China and determined that Henry grow up American, sends him to the exclusive Ranier Elementary School. The white kids ignore him, but Henry soon meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American and fellow scholarship student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship—and innocent love—that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. When Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry cling to each other and hope that the war will end.
Forty years later, Henry Lee is convinced that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement, he begins looking for the Okabe family's belongings, and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry also searches for his own voice—in order to explain the actions of his nationalistic father; bridge the gap between him and his own modern, Chinese-American son; and help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
To learn more, please visit http://www.jamieford.com/