Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet has repeatedly been recommended to me on the Reference desk, and I finally had a chance to read it for our library’s Fiction at Noon book discussion in January. Unfortunately, for me, it did not live up to the reputation it had been given by many people….and I was frankly, surprised and disappointed. Having said this, it’s not a bad story, it’s pleasant enough. The author’s writing style simply struck me as emotionally flat and the characters did not continue to hold my interest throughout the novel.
The story that spans several decades and deals with Japanese families who were “evacuated” in 1942 from the West Coast after the bombing of 1942 and placed in internment camps for what was ironically called “their own protection.” The story’s narrator is 12-year-old Henry, the son of Chinese immigrants. Henry’s father is an ardent Chinese nationalist who has long hated the Japanese….so it is no surprise, when Henry befriends and eventually falls in love with a schoolmate and Japanese American, named Keiko. Keiko’s family is inevitably evacuated to an internment camp in Idaho, and the book alternates between 1942-45 and the present day as Henry and Keiko’s story unfolds. I did not find Ford’s writing particularly descriptive, but he does do a good job of creating the atmosphere of this historical time period and a highly emotional conflict between father and son. Having said that, it’s predictable and thankfully short