Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
When he deliberately decides he is his own man at age 13, Chinese American Henry Lee pledges to wait forever for Japanese American Keiko Okabe, who is one of the 120,000 innocent Americans of Japanese ancestry imprisoned during World War II. Beyond U.S. borders, war is waging, and Henry’s father cannot forget that his ancestral Chinese homeland is being eviscerated by the Japanese Army. Henry and Keiko would have been enemies, but instead as Americans – both born in the same Seattle hospital just months apart – they find forbidden first love.
More than four decades later, when the unclaimed belongings of those imprisoned Japanese American families turn up in the basement of a historic Seattle hotel under renovation, Henry is convinced that some of those abandoned treasures must belong to the Okabes. He’s thrown into a journey back in time … and sometimes, true love does last forever.
Yes, Jamie Ford (who is the hapa great-grandson of a Nevada mining pioneer who arrived in San Francisco from China in 1865!) writes a touching story that’s already made The New York Times bestseller list. Whoo-hoo and big congratulations!
BUT … I have to admit that too many historical and factual errors made for some annoying moments. They start on the novel’s second page … it’s 1986, which means Henry’s son couldn’t possibly have found solace on an online support group after his mother’s death, and even though Bruce Lee was resting peacefully in Lake View Cemetery then, his son Brandon doesn’t arrive until 1993. Those sort of erroneous details could have been easily avoided (not to mention millions of people out there speak Japanese, although you only need one to provide accurate translations, ahem). Maybe we can hope for corrections in the paperback edition? It’s already hugely successful in hardcover – and internationally, too, with foreign rights selling right and left – so a little more thorough editing can only make it more so, right?