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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (Audio)

Posted by Irish in Uncategorized4 Comments

Publisher: Random House Audio (Audio); Ballantine Books (Print)
Publication Date: 26 Jan 2009
ISBN: 9780739382837 (audio), 0345505344 (Paperback)
Format: Audio
Pages: 320
Audio Length: 9 discs (~ 11 hrs)
Narrator: Feodor Chin
Place(s) Traveled to: Seattle, Washington (1940’s & 1986)
Rating: 5 of 5 star

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Ranier Academy, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is one of those novels that I’ve heard a lot of good buzz about. Everyone that I know who has read it seems to love it. So when I saw an audio sitting on the shelf of my local library I thought that I would give it a go. Wondering all the while if it would live up to the hype that I’d heard. Well, hype is the wrong word but I can’t think of one that will fit. This isn’t a book in which I hear people screaming about from the rooftops but its got this quiet and growing following that is harder to ignore then those who scream to be read. When you pick up Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet know that there are no big bangs or earth shattering revelations. Instead there is just this rich story about a boy and a girl and the cruel realities of living in a world during a time of war. The story is told in two parts, there is 10 year old Henry living in Chinatown in the 1940’s war is raging in Europe and there is an ever growing disdain for people of Japanese decent. The other is through Henry’s eyes as a fully grown man still living in the same area of Seattle but in a world that is far far different from his youth. This story is also about a Japanese girl named Keiko who Henry meets at the white school that his father insists on sending him to and that of Henry’s son, a modern boy who thinks that his father is stuck in the past and old ways.
Words can’t describe just how amazing this story was. Jamie Ford has such a gift with words and story telling that I often thought that I was right there in the story standing next to Henry and seeing the world through his eyes. My heart leapt when his did and it broke when Henry suffered. I would sometimes find myself talking over the narrator of the audio – speaking to Henry’s son telling him that he didn’t understand, that if he knew all that his father had gone through he’d be in awe of him.

Speaking of the narrator, can I just say that I loved Feodor Chin’s voice? He did an amazing job with this book and the accents. There were never any issues in trying to determine who was speaking as he had such distinct twists for all the different characters. I really enjoyed listening to this audio, not just because it was a great story but because the narrator was just so good. This is definitely a narrator that I am going to be on the look out for later on. Just as Jamie Ford is an author to watch. His words are pure poetry and his words are so amazingly drawn. I know I keep saying that but its true. Just as its equally true that I really can’t find the words to fully express just how wonderful this story is. So rather than hear me gush fantastic about it I strongly suggest that you go and discover it for yourself.

Date Read: 24 Aug 2009

4 Responses to “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (Audio)”

  1. Irish

    BermudiaOnion – its a beautiful story I think that you’ll really like it.

    Buckeye – I hope that you like it! This was a book that I really enjoyed. Now if only Ford will go back and retell it from Keiko’s POV. Would love to see the same events through her eyes!