Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Club and Book Review of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Today, the book club I joined discussed The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

During the meeting, it was socializing. I don't have a problem with that. But, when a meeting starts at a certain time, then you should make a point to start on time.

We had a few ladies, discuss the setting of history at that time. Some family and friends that they know.  The Chinese-Japanese relationships, the American government, European history what was happening compared to what was happening in America. It was uncomfortable talking about different ethnic groups because we met in Barnes and Noble, and we had to remember we were in a public setting.

I have been wanting to read this for quite awhile, not sure if I would have read it any other way.  I know this is strange, but I like to savor books. I loved the cover of Mr. Ford's novel the illustration is gorgeous depicting the scene of the Japanese parasol.
My problem, sometimes I don't read a book that is at my home at all. Because I know I am going to love this book. I don't want to read it, but savor and wait for years, sort of like a marinade, until something draws me to read it.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford

 After Pearl Harbor was bombed, the United States went to war with the Japanese. Many Japanese Americans lived on the west coast of the United States,  also the Chinese Americans lived side by side among them in Seattle. This was dangerous on the West coast. Think of the relationship of where Japan is from the United  States.

Henry and his parents are Chinese living in Seattle. They are proud Americans, but at the same time Henry's father can not forget their roots in China. 

  Henry was lonely and isolated and teased by bullies of the school and other children that attended.    Instead they sent him to a private American school where he would be " American".  Everyday his father sent him off to school with a button on his clothing" I am Chinese".

Henry, worked in the kitchen at school there he met Keiko a Japanese American girl. They developed a friendship that his family was not happy about. Chinese Americans did not trust, and hated the Japanese because of the treatment of the Japanese toward the Chinese in their homeland.

 Henry knew from the beginning of their friendship to Keiko would be trouble.  It is not the Chinese way to not honor your parents. It is very dishonorable to not obey them.  But Henry was rebellious and stayed friends with Keiko.
Times in the United States were getting hard and changing. There was tension in the air. The Japanese Americans were isolated by everyone. They were treated horribly by the government and the citizens.

Henry and Keiko sneak into the Black Elks Club to hear their favorite music, Jazz.  They meet Sheldon, and Oscar another Jazz musician.  At the club before they were ready to leave a raid  of FBI agents stormed in.  In the crowd was a Japanese couple. The FBI treated them harshly.

This was a first sign to Keiko that something was brewing in the air with poor treatment of her fellow Japanese. From that time on Keiko and Marty realized they have to meet secretly.

Keiko's family treated Marty like he was part of the family, with open arms.  One day, Marty was worried about Keiko, he found out later on she was taken to the Internment camps somewhere in the mid west.......

There is flashbacks, of the 1940's and 1986 of Henry's life. The story actually begins with the Panama Hotel in Seattle.  Many of the Japanese Americans left their belonging to hopefully come back to it when  they return.  Marty is outside the hotel in 1986, when items that belonged to them, and luggage is carried out.  One item brought back a memory to Henry, a Japanese Parasol. Then all of his memories that were hidden came to the forefront of his memory.

                              SPOILER.........SPOILER

 Henry has just lost his wife, Ethel from a very long illness. His son wants him to stop dwelling on his mother, and find his first love.

My Review:  I loved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It had everything I like to read, history, suspense, romance, drama,  and music, and of course conflict.    I have always wanted to read something on the internment camps, even if it is fiction.
 Mr. Ford described the horrible treatment the Japanese Americans went through by the American government, how their fellow Americans treated them.  What happened to them before they left, and after being in the internment camps.  What happened to their homes, and property, businesses, etc.
  They were treated horribly when they were released from the camps by their fellow neighbors. Where do they go?  It is very unfortunate they were treated this way.

I liked the romance between Keiko and Henry.  It seemed a bit unrealistic. At times I thought they were talking about teenagers. I was wondering did they grow up?  No, he was still the little boy. But, he seemed he was older than he actually was.  Was this puppy love? Real love?

The drama between his father and Henry was so sad. It was important for Henry's father to see Henry "All American".  How can you live with your family and not speak the same language? That sounds so bizarre to me?  But the family wanted to show their loyalty, to prove they were genuinely American. 

 The Chinese were very loyal to the American government. They would have done anything. Most of them did, they went into the service to prove their loyalty.  Doesn't make sense does it?
 The one thing in the entire book was isolation. Henry was isolated at home from his parents. They did not want him to communicate in Chinese. How could they communicate if they didn't know English?    In school he was isolated by the students.   On the streets, was the same.  But the one source that helped was Keiko.  

                                                   SPOILER........SPOILER...........
 Keiko, had some of the same problems, but when she came into the camps, she was surrounded by her friends and family that were Japanese.  Poor Henry, he had no where to go to be accepted.

I loved the title of the novel, It was bitter and sweet memories.  Mr. Ford's writing and style flowed and I liked the story. Some of the story was contrived and unbelievable, and believable.   Parts of the story was expected by other parts were a surprise.  I hope production companies call Mr. Ford to ask him for the movie rights.

One other thing, I read some of the reviews of On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet on Goodreads.   Some of the comments were mainly about the accuracy that it ruined the taste of the book.  The commenter wrote all the inaccuracies. I felt that it was being a bit picky.  I still give it *****1/2(51/2 stars).

 Thank you Mr. Ford for a wonderful read. Looking forward to your next one....

2 comments:

Irene said...

I have to say that this is the first positive review I have read about this book. Thanks. Thought I was weird, seems you are too. Ha Ha

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