From Years Past: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

           Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet examines the lives of a Chinese boy, Henry and a Japanese girl, Keiko and the friendship that ensues between the two during World War II. Henry and Keiko’s friendship is a result of both of them being outsiders in their schools and very much so in their town. The all white school that they both attends looks at both of them as the enemy, even when Henry wears a nametag stating “I am American” people laugh and throw insults his way, it does though keep him from being labeled the true enemy which in his day and age was the Japanese. Keiko doesn’t apologize for her nationality nor does she accept responsibility for the actions of those who attacked Pearl Harbor. The unlikely pair’s friendship brings out both of their strengths and helps them both keep faith that one day things will change.
           This book was written in both past and present tense, through the eyes of Henry. You get to observe the relationship he has with his parents who are teaching him to abandon his Chinese ways to truly become American during these times and how that affects him living in a community that doesn’t accept him as an American. You experience his confusion as an older man trying to bridge the generation gap between him and his son. You also get to experience the loss of friendship and love due to circumstance and how the past can unexpectedly come rushing into your life.

            Jamie Ford’s style of writing is inviting and keeps you interested in the story at hand. He introduces history without being overwhelming and tries to make every situation relatable in order to gain empathy and understanding from the reader. It’s easy as the reader to find yourself imagining what you would do if you were in the situation of the main characters, trying to maintain your identity when your surroundings don’t accept you.

            I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I thought it moved with ease and kept me interested and curious of what each page would present. The American reaction to Japanese and their culture after the attacks on Pearl Harbor is a subject that I had not explored. This was a great introduction into that era and the struggles of all involved. I hope you too can appreciate it.


  1. Ok, I need to hit the library and take a week vacation without anyone knowing so I can get caught up on reading! I have really slacked off this month.

  2. This book was so good! It said so much about the climate in American after Pearl Harbor.


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