Friday, April 6, 2018

Review: Hotel on the Corner . . .

It remains one of the most troubling chapters in U.S. history. In the spring of 1942, more than 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, most from the West Coast, were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to internment camps in the interior of the country.

Though many books have explored the injustice, few, in my opinion, are as compelling as Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Told from the perspective of a Chinese-American, in two stages of life, Jamie Ford's debut novel is a refreshing take on the subject.

In the 2009 work, set primarily in Seattle, Washington, in 1942 and 1986, Henry Lee develops and later reflects on his deep friendship with Keiko Okabe, a Japanese-American girl and schoolmate caught up in turmoil of World War II. Much of the story centers around the Panama Hotel, a dilapidated building that houses the belongings and the memories of the people who were forced to flee.

Though Ford's novel is uneven in places, it is a captivating, beautifully told account of a turbulent time. Those who are familiar with the history, culture, and geography of the Emerald City, as I am, will love the author's lavish descriptions of daily life in Seattle's Chinese and Japanese communities. Those who simply like a good story will like Ford's portrayal of a poignant and timeless friendship.

I intend to read more on this period of history and see the movie, based on the book, when it comes out later this year. Rating: 5/5.

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