Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

 by: Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a historical fiction novel set in Seattle Washington during the 1980’s with flashbacks of the 1940’s when world learns to cope with a second world war. The main character, Henry is a 12 year old Chinese boy who is forced by his parents to attend an all white school and speak only English. Feeling lonely and isolated he rejoices when a Japanese student joins him in the kitchen of the school lunch room.

Kako and Henry quickly become friends at school as they learn to rely on each other while dealing with bullies and community discrimination.

When the war breaks out the Japanese are soon labeled as being dangerous conspirators of the Japanese government. Many Seattle residents of Japanese descent hide all of their personal belongings in the basement of the Panama Hotel before being shipped off to internment camps further inland.

As Henry and Kako are torn away from the only comfortable relationship either one has known they find two unexpected allies in the faces of an old Jazz musician and the school lunch lady.

Henry’s father, a Chinese loyalist is furious to discover his only son has made friends with the enemy and does everything in his power to destroy their communication.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a fascinating story of a young friendship gone cold and the miraculous discovery of an old jazz record found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, which binds the past with the present.

Although WWII is an often documented time period, little is written about the controversial experiences of the Japanese internment camps located on US soil. Jamie Ford does a great job writing a beautiful story of friendship into a painful time in history.

Historical Value- 3
Emotional Value- 4
Entertainment Value- 3
Personal Character Value- 4
Age recommendation- 18+ or mature 16

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