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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: January 2009 ISBN: 9780739382844
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"Sentimental, heartfelt….the exploration of Henry’s changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages...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

“Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”
-- Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


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.


From the Hardcover edition. Download and start listening now!

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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

  • "Sentimental, heartfelt novel portrays two children separated during the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. In 1940s Seattle, ethnicities do not mix. Whites, blacks, Chinese and Japanese live in separate neighborhoods, and their children attend different schools. When Henry Lee’s staunchly nationalistic father pins an “I am Chinese” button to his 12-year-old son’s shirt and enrolls him in an all-white prep school, Henry finds himself friendless and at the mercy of schoolyard bullies. His salvation arrives in the form of Keiko, a Japanese girl with whom Henry forms an instant—and forbidden—bond. The occasionally sappy prose tends to overtly express subtleties that readers would be happier to glean for themselves, but the tender relationship between the two young people is moving. The older Henry, a recent widower living in 1980s Seattle, reflects in a series of flashbacks on his burgeoning romance with Keiko and its abrupt ending when her family was evacuated. A chance discovery of items left behind by Japanese-Americans during the evacuation inspires Henry to share his and Keiko’s story with his own son, in hopes of preventing the dysfunctional parent-child relationship he experienced with his own father. The major problem here is that Henry’s voice always sounds like that of a grown man, never quite like that of a child; the boy of the flashbacks is jarringly precocious and not entirely credible. Still, the exploration of Henry’s changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages while waiting for the story arc to come full circle, despite the overly flowery portrait of young love, cruel fate and unbreakable bonds. 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
  • "Fifth-grade scholarship students and best friends Henry and Keiko are the only Asians in their Seattle elementary school in 1942. Henry is Chinese, Keiko is Japanese, and Pearl Harbor has made all Asians-even those who are American born-targets for abuse. Because Henry's nationalistic father has a deep-seated hatred for Japan, Henry keeps his friendship with and eventual love for Keiko a secret. When Keiko's family is sent to an internment camp in Idaho, Henry vows to wait for her. Forty years later, Henry comes upon an old hotel where the belongings of dozens of displaced Japanese families have turned up in the basement, and his love for Keiko is reborn. In his first novel, award-winning short-story writer 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. Recommended for all fiction collections. Library Journal
  • Jamie Ford’s novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is deeply informed by an intimate knowledge of Seattle during World War II, of the tribulations of Asian peoples during the time of Japanese internment, and even of the Seattle jazz scene of that time. His story of an innocent passion that crosses racial barriers–and then, of the whole life of a man who forsook the girl he loved–is told with an artistic technique that makes emotion inevitable. Louis B. Jones, author of Particles and Luck
  • I loved it! Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a beautiful and tender masterpiece. A book everyone will be talking about, and the best book you’ll read this year. Anne Frasier, USA Today bestselling author of Garden of Darkness
  • 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 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
  • Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut. Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet tells a heartwarming story of fathers and sons, first loves, fate, and the resilient human heart. Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, the times and places are brought to life by the marvelous, evocative details. Jim Tomlinson, winner of the 2006 Iowa Short Fiction Award and author of Things Kept, Things Left Behind
  • 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 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 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 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 Ann Bergstrom | 2/7/2014

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

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cheryl Smith | 2/7/2014

    " Historical fiction. Light easy read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa Kaiser | 2/1/2014

    " A touching story and enjoyable read that is easily more sweet than bitter. The book aptly describes the plight of Seattle's Japanese residents during WWII and is full of vivid descriptions that will transport you back in time. The characters are sentimental and real, bridging relationships of family, friendship and first loves. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue Stein | 1/27/2014

    " While reading this book, I learned about a time in our country's history about which I was never taught in school. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sherry Hernandez | 1/21/2014

    " Enjoyed the history and romantic story line. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Johnson | 1/18/2014

    " Wonderful love story set in a troubling time. I didn't think Henry's ultimate "Long-distance love affair" choices quite fit the wonderful weaving of his character, however, but it set up for an amazing ending! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Madisen L | 1/16/2014

    " Overall,I felt this was a good book. I'm not very aware of the historical accuracy, but the story seemed to go together well. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ishira Parikh | 1/5/2014

    " This is one of the better books I have had to read for school. It is very descriptive and it intrigued me from the beginning. I would highly recommend this book f you are looking for a historical fiction book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eileen Kosar | 12/31/2013

    " Beautiful writing, lots of rich characters and a wonderfully layered story! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Winter Owens | 12/31/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book. At first I didn't think I would but it surprised me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer O'connell ford | 12/26/2013

    " Loved this book. Easy and delightful read "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Eunys | 12/14/2013

    " Good character and story development. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jan | 12/11/2013

    " Really enjoyed this book! Great historical fiction about the internment of the Japanese during WWII. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Philip Anderson | 8/16/2013

    " Delightful. Good read He brings a unique perspective to the topic. And, only after reading and enjoying it so much that I found out and then realized that the name Ford may not tell the full story of his background and family history. It was a nice surprise. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kris | 8/4/2013

    " I liked this book. It touches on a subject that is swept under the rug. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shazia | 4/1/2013

    " I really wanted to love this book, but in the end the popping back and forth between modern and the 1940s was just disruptive. I liked it fine, but it wasn't fabulous. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lindzie | 1/23/2013

    " I really enjoyed the historical aspect of this book. The author provided a unique perspective of Japanes and Chinese characters. A good read for anyone. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sally | 1/18/2013

    " Read this for bookclub . Enjoyed the storyline , and writing . Made for good discussion . "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michelle Hughes | 1/17/2013

    " My best book so far - what a great story "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary Dickson | 1/13/2013

    " This book was a little slow moving at times but I learned a lot about an era that I'm embarrassed that I don't know more about. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jill Robbertze | 5/1/2012

    " I LOVED this book. It is set in 2 eras, alternating from the 2nd World War to the 1980's. This book has a little of everything - racism, love, family, happiness, humour & sorrow but I love the way the author rounds off the ending with everything comming "full circle" and a romance with a differance. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debby Stewart Rabe | 2/28/2012

    " Loved this book. So happy my friend recommended it. Looking forward for this author's next book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 12/3/2011

    " Easy read and a great book if you like to a learn a little about history while you are reading :) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Vanessa Stone | 7/9/2011

    " It was a sweet story with a fitting ending, but I found some of Henry's actions a bit modern for the 1940's and a boy of twelve and thirteen. All in all a good read, but not one of my favorites. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carrie | 5/24/2011

    " It was a different twist to WWII historical fiction. I really enjoyed it. Some people in book club didn't feel the same. Liked the development of characters and the combination of traditional and contemporary culture. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jaz | 5/24/2011

    " Eh. I was very interested in the subject matter. I knew going in that the protagonist was a child, but I didn't expect the writing to be stilted and childish. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 5/23/2011

    " Beautiful story of a Chinese-American boy in 1942 Seattle who has a Japanese best friend/love interest who gets sent to the Japanese internment camps. Goes back and forth between 1942 and 1986 and explores issues of race and cultural pride alongside the themes of love in the time of war. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cdenning5 | 5/22/2011

    " Show the innocence of children's frienship. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary | 5/22/2011

    " Good Book. Different view of WWII "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandy | 5/22/2011

    " Great story line. Believable characters. Really gave me a feel for the hostility toward the Japanese during WWII. Also sheds light on the generational differences as the Chinese integrate into American society. Really liked this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Angie | 5/21/2011

    " This is an amazing book! A great love story mixed in with a horrible history. It is scary to read about the racism that occurred in Seattle, even scarier to think it could still happen today. A must read for anyone who lives in Seattle, is interested in World War II, or just love a great read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nina | 5/20/2011

    " So many errors detract from his credibility and thus the story. The potential of the books is why I gave 2 stars versus 1. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Veronica | 5/20/2011

    " LOVED this story!!! And there weren't a lot of deaths in it either. :-P "

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About the Author
Author Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated in 1865 from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Jamie Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. He grew up near Seattle’s Chinatown.

About the Narrator

Feodor Chin is a two-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award. He is an actor classically trained at the American Conservatory Theater and UCLA. His acting career includes numerous credits in film, television, theater, and voice-over. For more information please visit FeodorChin.com.