I have several places I go for book recommendations. I was visiting one of those groups, made a long list of books to read and was requesting them from the library.
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As is often the case with popular books, one of them wasn’t currently available, but the library database suggested another, similar book to read “while I waited” for the initial book I requested. That book suggestion was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, and I’m so glad I got to read this one!
This book alternates between the years 1942-1945 and 1986. In 1942, Henry is the 12 year old son of Chinese immigrants who lives in Seattle. His father is very loyal to China and hates the Japanese. He follows the battles on a map, and he makes Henry wear an “I’m Chinese” pin so he’s not mistaken for a Japanese. Henry’s parents put him in a nice school filled with Caucasian kids and only one other Asian, a Japanese girl named Keiko.
Because Henry and Keiko are “scholarshipping” as Henry’s dad says, they both work together in the cafeteria. Soon, they develop a close friendship, but they don’t have much time to get to know one another as Keiko’s family is sent to an interment camp.
Yet, even this interference can’t keep the two apart. When Henry’s dad finds out, he is furious and eventually stops talking to his son.
When the book goes to 1986, it follows the story of Henry, who has recently lost his wife and deeply mourns her. He discovers that the old hotel that was in the center of Japanese town has been reopened after 50 years, and the new owner discovered that the basement was filled with the possessions of the Japanese families that were sent to interment camps. Henry knows he must go and look for any possessions that might have belonged to Keiko and her family.
This story was sweet and romantic and sad. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I must say that Keiko’s time in the interment camps sounds much more pleasant that the experiences I’ve read from others in books.
I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.