Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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by Jamie Ford

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.

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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 Henry back to the 1940s, when his world was a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who was obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Ranier 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. 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, certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko, searches the hotel’s dark, dusty basement for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even 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.

Additional information

Book Condition

Used – Good




300 pages, 13×21 cm


October 6, 2009 by Ballantine Books Trade Paperbacks/ First published January 27, 2009


Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance


Montana Book Award (2009),
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2009),
David J. Langum Sr. Prize Nominee for American Historical Fiction (Director's Mention) (2009),
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Adult Fiction (2009)

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


1 in stock