I'm a big fan of historical fiction because I enjoy reading fiction and learning about the past at the same time. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was one of the best works of historical fiction I've read in a long time - before reading this book, I knew very little about the racism against Asian Americans during the Second World War. Author Jamie Ford skillfully takes the reader back in time to Seattle of the 1940s, showcasing the struggles of Chinese and Japanese Americans while creating a cast of intriguing characters. The novel focuses on the life of Chinese American Henry Lee, paralleling his life both as a young boy and as an old man. As a young boy, Henry fell in love with a Japanese American girl, Keiko. Their relationship was strictly forbidden by Henry's parents, with much animosity existing between the Chinese American and Japanese American cultures. As an adult, Henry loses his wife to cancer and wrestles to maintain a relationship with his son. What brings these two stories together, past and present, is when artifacts from the war era are found in a historic hotel near Henry's house. As these items from the past are dragged into the light, so are Henry's memories and the secret identity of his past. As he explores his history and questions it, he is able to move forward in his griefs, old and new. As the title suggests, this book beautifully weaves together the bitter and the sweet of life - sorrow and healing, brokenness and reconciliation. An excellent choice for a book discussion or for a summer read!
Recommended by Erica Jesonis