It’s been over a year since my last book review. Indeed, I started this book last year and just finished it. Sad. This is not a reflection on the book. It’s not an encyclopedic tome. It’s not difficult to read. It’s not boring. Far from it. I’m just slowly losing my status as a reader. I can’t now claim to “love reading” when it takes me over 12 months to finish a novel. Luckily, 2014 is right around the corner and with that New Year resolutions. I have too many “to be read” books lining my shelves not to get back on track.
So, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The title itself is so intriguing. This is a New York Times bestselling novel published in 2009 that chronicles the friendship and awkward first love between a first generation Chinese-American boy, Henry Lee, and a second generation Japanese-American girl, Keiko Okabe in Seattle during World War II. It’s also about family, obedience, jazz, and buried secrets. It’s about the tragic uprooting and internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry and the damages done on a personal level as result. It’s about the conflict between father and son and of coming of age.
It was indeed a tender, bitter, and sweet novel that I enjoyed and would recommend especially if you enjoy stories like The Notebook. I almost do not want to re-list on my book swap website. Forbidden love with a cross-cultural twist. What’s not to like?
It’s the author’s debut novel. Now, I will admit that I read the entire novel with the impression that Jamie Ford was a white woman. Don’t ask me why. I just did. It wasn’t until I got to the Author’s Note and Acknowledgements at the end (I read everything generally) that I realized that not only was Jamie a man, but indeed a Chinese-American one at that. I wonder now how I would process the novel differently if I had known that while reading it. Of course it makes sense as people tend to write about what they are most familiar with. I mean there are two father and son conflict themes in the novel after all.