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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (96,721 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jamie Ford Narrator: Feodor Chin Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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. And 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.

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.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism, the blindness of patriotism, the astonishing unknowns between parents and their children, and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived. The result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history.”

    Library Journal

  • “[A] sentimental, heartfelt novel…A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war—not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today’s world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel.”

    Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

  • “Mesmerizing and evocative, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a tale of conflicted loyalties, devotion, as well as a vibrant portrait of Seattle’s Nihonmachi district in its heyday.”

    Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants

  • “A lovely combination of romantic coincidence, historic detail, and realism that is smooth and highly readable…Ford does wonderful work in recreating prewar Seattle.”

    Oregonian

  • “A wartime-era Chinese-Japanese variation on Romeo and Juliet…The period detail [is] so revealing and so well rendered…It’s clear on every page how thoroughly Ford, who grew up here, did his research.”

    Seattle Times

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2010 Washington State Book Award Finalist
  • Selected for the February 2009 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Colette Mcguinness | 2/13/2014

    " Quick read with a happy ending? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Melanie | 2/12/2014

    " This is a beautifully written story about love, loyalty, family, and identity that takes place in Seattle during WWII. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kiley | 2/11/2014

    " This book was a simple but sweet and enjoyable read! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Ann Bergstrom | 2/7/2014

    " Enjoyed this having grown up in Seattle.....knew exactly where they were talking about. "

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