Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

A Novel

Book - 2013 | 2009 Ballantine books trader paperback edition
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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"
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 Rainier Elementary, 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. 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.
"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.
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, [2013]
Edition: 2009 Ballantine books trader paperback edition
Copyright Date: ©2009
ISBN: 9780345505347
Branch Call Number: FIC FORD
Characteristics: 308 pages ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

A Chinese-American boy and a Japanese-American girl become friends...and then planes bomb Pearl Harbor.

Oct. 9, 2017

Ford's bestselling debut, filled with historical details, tells the story of two young immigrants - one Chinese, one Japanese - in Seattle during World War II.

Historical fiction about WWII Japanese internment and Seattle's International District.

KCLSRecommends Oct 22, 2014

A bestselling novel, primarily set in Seattle, about the love and friendship between a Chinese American boy and a Japanese American girl during the internment in World War II.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jul 27, 2018

Heartbreaking (though heartwarming by the end) and relevant in today’s political climate. Also, great descriptions of local Seattle areas during different historical periods.

ArapahoeMarieC Jul 26, 2018

I loved this book! I have never read a book about plight of Japanese-American internees and Chinese-Americans during WWII and found this book engrossing!

Jul 17, 2018

I loved this book! I have never read a book about plight of Japanese-American internees and Chinese-Americans during WWII and found this book engrossing!

Jan 28, 2018

I loved this book, wonderful story. The author describes his characters and places so well I was able to 'see' them clearly! War has such devastating effects on so many people in so many different ways. Man's inhumanity to man! I have known many Canadians of Japanese decent who were treated as the enemy, as well as Canadians of other nationalities, mistreated because of their heritage and not accepted for who they are. History keeps repeating itself!

Dec 07, 2017

What a wonderful book. I don't normally read books about relationships, but this one was beautifully written and had me absorbed from the very first page.

Nov 02, 2017

This is one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read hundreds.

Oct 17, 2017

While my bookclub couldn't find much to say about this book, I thought it provided an important history lesson. Considering the prejudice and hostility that threatens the daily lives of so many people, this book continues to be relevant. It was particularly interesting as a Seattle resident, recognizing the places described. Let us never forget the injustice that was perpetrated against our fellow citizens.

Sep 04, 2017

Honestly, if it wasn't for the fact that this is the "community read" for the high school at which I teach, I don't think I would have picked it up on my own. Although I feel the book starts too slowly, I was glad I pushed through to reach the more engaging aspects of the story. The narrative takes place during two time periods - the early part of WWII (about 1943) and Seattle of the late 1980's. The same character is the focus of both story threads - as a Chinese American pre-teen and then as a senior citizen. In the broadest way the story is about the internment of Japanese Americans and how this impacts the "first love" the main character has for a Japanese school-mate. This relationship strains the way the boy and his Chinese immigrant father interact while later in time this character and his own son struggle with their relationship in not dissimilar ways. This novel helped me to better understand the scope and impact of the dark example of nationalistic fear which led to putting American citizens in to what were essentially prison camps. I hope my students learned this as well and that we never, ever repeat this shameful event.

Jul 31, 2017

A beautifully and sensitively written story

Jun 07, 2017

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet is a great novel about World War Two and Japanese internment camps. I loved this book so much

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

Oct 23, 2016

blue_dog_8329 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Sep 05, 2015

bandanana thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Dec 18, 2013

eurydice_orpheus thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

orange_cat_2301 Aug 13, 2012

orange_cat_2301 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

blue_raven_28 Jun 26, 2012

blue_raven_28 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

Jun 19, 2012

hlsadler thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Summary

Jul 02, 2013

This is a beautifully written book showing both the pain and beauty of love, music & friendship among the challenges of assimilation, discrimination and war.

Jun 19, 2012

A young Chinese-American boy befriends a Japanese-American girl who is displaced into a Japanese-American Interment camp.


Add a Quote

Oct 23, 2016

"Thank you and you have a fine day sir" -Sheldon and Henry

Jan 23, 2011

The hardest choices in life aren't between what's right and what's wrong but between what's right and what's best.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at KCLS

To Top