Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I guess my review can be summed up in one word: wow. Easiest review ever. Done.

Well, maybe I'll expand on the "wow". In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned the 2012 Lit Fest put on by the Lighthouse Writer's Workshop in June. At the event, I had a chance to chat with Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency. One of her authors is Jamie Ford and she mentioned how great his book is. I liked chatting with Kristin enough to pick it up. For her great rec, I've now moved Kristin up on my awesome people totem pole.

I've always been fascinated with the WWII era. Our history books do a great job painting a picture of life in the 40's and explaining the far-reaching effects of the war - especially how we view topics like religious and cultural tolerance. One thing that I don't think I ever learned enough about (because the subject was barely touched on in all of the US history classes I took ((this is not meant to be a discussion on how we view the historical atrocities committed by the United States (((of which there are several))); I'm only referencing my personal experience.))), was the internment of Japanese-American citizens after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet explores this subject through the eyes of a Chinese-American boy living in Seattle. In many aspects, it's a classic coming of age story dealing with fitting in at school, familial expectations and prejudices, and first love. For those reasons only, I loved this story. I connected with Henry in a very real way and cheered him on through his ups and downs.

The historical element of the story was brilliant. To me, Ford dealt with a sensitive subject in a way that let the reader determine his or her own judgements. Through Henry, we saw the injustices done to many innocent Japanese families and feel the effect of this in a personal way. Henry's anger and frustration was my anger and frustration.

The story splits itself between Henry's life in 1942 and 1986. As we uncover pieces of Henry's past, we see how those events shaped his future. I've read complaints about some anachronisms and I would agree that the internet was not something readily available to anyone in 1986. I also doubt there were online support groups at the time either. Sure there were a few minor hiccups, but they didn't distract me from the story.

From the opening pages, I wasn't convinced I was going to love this book but I did. I really did and I couldn't be happier to have read it. This is one of those special books that becomes a memory. The experience I had reading it is something special to me. It's something I'll remember and hold on to.

Thank you, sir. You have a fine day.

Educate yourself about the topic in this post:

No comments:

Post a Comment