Monday, March 19, 2012

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

This book caught my eye when I was at Costco awhile back with my Mom, she thought it looked good too, so bought a copy for each of us.  Thanks, Mom. I finally got around to reading it and it was a very quick read.  It's the story of Henry and goes back and forth between his childhood during World War II and the mid 80s.  He's Chinese and lives in Seattle with his parents, and attends a Caucasian school.  He gets teased and bullied a lot, because he is Asian.  His father even makes him wear a button that says, "I Am Chinese" in the hopes that he doesn't get confused for a Japanese boy.  
He lives a pretty lonely life in the beginning, his only friend being a black saxophone player named Sheldon who plays on one of the street corners Henry walks by on the way to school.  Sheldon watches over Henry and their friendship grows stronger as the story goes on.  A Japanese girl joins Henry's school.  She is also treated with suspicion by the white kids, and she and Henry soon become close friends.  She and her family are eventually sent to an internment camp, as apparently was common at this time in the US.  I have to admit I never knew much about that, so either wasn't paying much attention during that portion of history class, or it was completely glossed over.  This book doesn't go very deep in to the details of the confinement, and in some parts aside from the fact that the Japanese are imprisoned, the camp seems like it's not that bad, Keiko's family has a house to themselves, she is still able to go to school, and her Girl Scout Troop even goes on a campout.  Sounds like a cakewalk compared to what was taking place in Germany, but I have a feeling that the conditions at the real camps were nowhere near that nice. 
In the portion of the story that takes place in the 80s, Henry is recently widowed and has a college age son.  He is searching for a rare album that his friend Sheldon recorded in the '40s.  It is a link to his past that he cannot let go of.  His son doesn't initially understand the significance, but inevitably helps his Dad bring all the pieces together.
Overall, a well written book which I would recommend.  I would be interested in learning more about the true stories of the camps, and am sure that there are less fictionalized accounts out there.  Guess it's time to head to the library soon :)
My next read is the Litigators by John Grisham.  I haven't read anything by him in awhile, but my Dad read it over Christmas and left it for me, so figured I'd give it a try.  His books are usually a quick but fun read.

1 comment:

  1. If I were to judge a book by its cover, this one looks really good. Thanks for the great overview :)


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