Welcome to Mrs. Brecht's Bookshelf. Here you can read reviews of books that I read personally and books that I enjoy reading to my sons. Read more about our Caldecott journey here and about my decision to read banned/challenged books here. I'll also periodically post fun reading-related activities and ideas. Who knows, I may even start doing some book giveaways if I get enough readers!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Title: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author: Jamie Ford

Review: I read this book for a new book club that some friends of mine are starting. I haven't been to a book club for a while and am eager to start reading and discussing various books. I'm going to try to get the details right in my review, but I lent my library copy of the book to another friend to read before book club, so I can't double check my dates, spellings of names, etc.

This novel has a dual time frame, partially set in 1942, partially set in 1986. It focuses on a 12-year-old, first-generation Chinese-American boy named Henry. (Wow! That's a lot of hyphenated adjectives.) He lives in Seattle during the World War II era and befriends a Japanese-American girl named Keiko. Though Keiko and her family are American citizens, they are discriminated against because of their Japanese roots. Henry's own father vehemently disapproves of his relationship with Keiko.

The two kids fall in love (I know, gag me). The "teenage romance" aspect of the story definitely grated on me, though I am glad the central characters were kids, because it adds an element of "loss of innocence" as relating to bigotry. Eventually Keiko and her family are forced to leave town and are relocated to prison camps (I forget the polite, PC term). Henry is devastated and tries to do anything in his power to be with Keiko.

Fast forward 40-some-years. The 1986 portion of the story focuses on Henry's relationship with his adult son - how Henry's past has effected how he relates to his son and how Henry reveals the personal details of his childhood to his son. Henry still clings to the memories of his relationship with Keiko and reflects on how the experiences of his childhood have shaped him.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and found its discussion of the Asian American community during WWII to be quite informative. It was definitely touching at times, but the romance aspect was a little annoying at the same time. Oh, and it was a very "clean" book. No sexual stuff. No (or very little - I can't remember) cussing. All in all, it was a pleasant book to read.

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