Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the debut novel of astounding author Jamie Ford. The story drops you into the lap of Henry Lee, a man who is dealing with the loss of his wife to cancer, an uncomfortable past with his parents, a reluctantly distant relationship with his son, and memories of a Japanese girl he once loved so long ago. Henry was twelve when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was a Chinese boy encased in an all White school, forced to speak English by parents who didn't, ostracized by a society looking for Japanese spies around every corner, and unable to stop the injustices he could see being forced upon his neighbors. It was a time of internment camps for Japanese-American citizens and a complete lack of respect for any non-whites.
The novel depicts an instrospective look at Henry's life, during his childhood and as he copes with his wife's death, finding the poignant moments that shaped (and continue to shape) him. The events of the time are astoundingly brutal. The book however, is surprisingly tender, even during the most vicious scenes. The cultures of both the Japanese and the Chinese come through clearly, and you will find yourself swept away to a past some wish would never have happened but should never be forgotten.
I have to mention that prior to this novel, I really had not educated myself on the history of the Japanese internment camps. I was astounded at the visuals Jamie depicts, and I really enjoyed the perspective of Henry - particularly since he is a Chinese man affected by the wrongs done against the Japanese. The book is incredibly well-written, and its immediately obvious why this novel leaped onto the New York Times Best Sellers List. I truly regret not reading this book back in February, because I would have done whatever I could to meet Jamie when he toured Denver. He is an exceptional author, and this is must have for any library.