Plot. The protagonist of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an old widower of Chinese descent named Henry who reveals, through a series of flashbacks, his childhood in Seattle, WA and his love of a Japanese girl, Keiko, during WWII.
The story begins with the Panama Hotel. Japanese families, including Keiko’s, stored as much of their worldly goods as they could in the basement. A 1986 renovation reveals these treasures still exist. Through a series of chapters in modern-day, and flashbacks to the early 1940s, the reader is treated to an extraordinary slice of American history during the war, i.e., the fear of and internment of Japanese Americans. The resilient love of a man and the women in his life is a touching story; the familial stubborn tension between father and son is sad and life-altering.
Research the Panama Hotel in Seattle. The story, albeit a novel, is based on history. The hotel exists today, parts are a museum, as it was used by the Japanese forced to leave their homes and belongings because of the Japanese internment. Stories sprinkled with real history are a treat to read. The characters are fictional, the history is true. Narration took a while to get used to. The narrator is of Asian descent, a great choice.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is written by Jamie Ford, narrated by Feodor Chin, about eleven hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format, released in January 2009 by Random House Audio.