The book I have chosen to review this week is one I actually read several years ago. It was brought to my attention again recently when my daughter brought home a copy of it for me from a used book sale.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve closed the covers. Books like this remind me what the best in historical fiction has to offer the reader. Novels like Ford’s forge an imaginary link, the words almost transporting you past the names and dates of history and into the reality of the past, as if it were the present.
At the base of Ford’s tale is an innocent love story between two childhood friends, Henry Lee, a Chinese American and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American. The pair were close friends in the 1940’s until the day Keiko and her family were moved to an internment camp during World War II.
These memories of Henry’s past, are stirred up once again when Lee, now elderly, notices a commotion at the boarded up Panama Hotel, which stood inbetween their two neighborhoods marking the boundaries of Chinatown and the neighboring Japantown.
Inside the building, which is being renovated, a time capsule of sorts is discovered in the basement, the belongings of 37 families who were moved to internment camps during the war. This one discovery, as seen through Lee’s eyes, are where his and Keiko’s story begins to unfold. Their story teaches the reader about the internment camps in a way no history book could ever could.
Through these two characters friendship the reader is transformed. As if in a time machine, Henry and Keiko’s story becomes part of all of our stories as Americans. I found myself devouring their story, page after delicious page, only wishing it would never end. Spending time with Henry and Keiko, is something a reader will never regret. Theirs is a story which will linger for years.
The public library is where I find all of the books I just have to read! Visit today!