Audiobook Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

hotelTitle: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library; print copy from TLC Book Tours
Audiobook reader: Feodor Chin
First line: Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel.

Henry Lee is growing up in Seattle, the only son of his Chinese immigrant parents. His father is extremely proud of Henry’s scholarship to Rainier Elementary, the white school in town. There is one other non-white student in Rainier: Keiko, a Japanese-American girl the same age as Henry. The two strike up an unconventional friendship, quickly becoming best friends, something Henry’s parents would be horrified to discover. China is at war with Japan, and so is the US. When the United States government starts rounding up Japanese-Americans and putting them in internment camps, Henry and Keiko’s friendship is in jeopardy. Over the next few years, Henry will grow into a man and learn that sometimes doing what’s right is the hardest thing of all.

I chose to listen to The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet after Sandy reviewed the audio version and said it was good. And she was right. Not only is this a brilliant novel, but the narrator did a wonderful job of bringing Henry’s story to life.

The story is told with dual timelines – one timeline is the story of newly widowed Henry in 1986, the other is the story of 12 to 16-year-old Henry during the war years. It is a simple story, one without a lot of surprises, and yet it is so poignant and beautifully written that I loved listening to it. Henry and Keiko’s story is told with reverent tenderness amid the injustice and horror of the internment camps.

Ford chose to focus on the characters – Henry, a young man who wants to please his traditional Chinese father, but who also wants to be truly American; Keiko, a second-generation Japanese-American who doesn’t even speak Japanese and yet is seen as the enemy; Henry’s father, made bitter by hatred for his homeland’s enemies; Sheldon, an African-American saxophone player dealing with prejudice on a daily basis even though he has moved far from the Deep South. The result is an authentic, character-driven novel where the issues of racial prejudice and injustice are clearly demonstrated in the lives of those most effected.

Highly recommended.

(A review copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it for this blog tour. The above link is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it and subsequently purchase anything, I will receive a small percentage.)

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23 Responses to Audiobook Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

  1. JoAnn
    Twitter: lakesidemusing
    says:

    I like books with dual timelines, and this sounds like very good story. I’m putting it on my audible.com wish list!
    .-= JoAnn´s last blog ..TSS: The Right Book at the Right Time =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      JoAnn – it really is wonderful on audio – added so much to the experience!

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the audio! The book was pretty predictable I thought, but forgave easily once I was whisked away by this precious love story. I think in these situations, the audio really adds to the overall enjoyment and experience!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Monday Movie Meme – Bugged Out =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – I think it would be hard not for it to be predictable with the storyline in the future – but it was still told so well that I didn’t mind at all!

  3. Ash says:

    This sounds like a great book, and very different from a lot of historical fiction. It seems like Japanese-American history is getting a little more representation in the genre as of late.
    .-= Ash´s last blog ..The Girl Made of Cool =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Ash – I didn’t really know how close to home the internment camp issue was – I’m a Washingtonian, and never knew these parts of Seattle’s history.

  4. diane says:

    I enjoyed this book as well; excellent review.
    .-= diane´s last blog ..Sunday Salon – February 7th =-.

  5. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit
    says:

    I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I had hoped.
    .-= Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)´s last blog ..Mailbox Monday #68 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Serena – that’s too bad – it’s always sad when a book disappoints.

  6. Jamie Ford says:

    Hi Carrie,

    Thanks for the lovely and in-depth review!

    Best to all!

    Jamie
    .-= Jamie Ford´s last blog ..What SAT score = Hitman? =-.

  7. Kathy says:

    I am so looking forward to reading this one!
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Our Life in France – banking, money and numbers =-.

  8. I also really enjoyed this book. 😉
    .-= Amy @ My Friend Amy´s last blog ..Review: Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Amy – I’m planning to assign it to my 13-year-old – she’s studying World War II next quarter.

  9. lisamm says:

    Great review, Carrie! Would you believe I have never listened to an audio book? Maybe if I had a long commute.. anyway! Thanks so much for all the time you put into this! It is greatly appreciated.
    .-= lisamm´s last blog ..Winter Reading Series: KEEPING THE FEAST Discussion Questions =-.

  10. Suko says:

    I read this book, but how great this would have been to listen to as an audiobook!

    Excellent review. I also enjoyed this story. 🙂
    .-= Suko´s last blog ..An Interview with Author Jamie Ford =-.

  11. I enjoyed this novel quite a bit too. There was much more to it than I expected and the author put it all together so well. Thanks for your great review, Carrie!
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..Monday At the Movies: Taking Chance =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – he did do a wonderful job, didn’t he? I’m looking forward to more from him.

  12. Sim Carter
    Twitter: simcarter
    says:

    I loved this book too; and am wondering if any plans are in the works for a movie version. It’s a poignant story about a disturbing time in our history; would love to see a great filmmaker bring this mostly forgotten period to light.
    I’ve just started a blog about movies based on books (pretty basic premise!) because I love both media. And get especially excited to see a film based on a book I’ve read. They rarely get it spot on but it’s intriguing to see how the filmmakers adapt the printed page to the screen.
    Anyway, I’ll be back to your site for sure.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sim – I haven’t heard any news of a film adaptation of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but I would certainly like to see one!

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