Monday, March 30, 2009

Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

If you've ever put together a puzzle, you know how frustrating it can be, finding pieces that, because of the machines that cut them, were rough and didn't quite go together, or those that, for some odd reason, has a piece or two missing when you finish. Most literary books are like this... with pieces missing or roughly fitting together. And sometimes that's okay, because life often works that way. In reality, nothing ever really works the way it should, and pieces fitting together are often called miracles, not normal at all.

But I think if you were to step outside of people's lives, you would see that the pieces actually do fit together. That irony and counterpoint often do resolve themselves. And it is undeniably poignant when it does happen. Perhaps this is what I like most about Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, that, like a puzzle, the pieces fit together so well, smooth and complete.

To move away from the metaphor, Ford did an outstanding job in characterization in this, and well he should, having learned from a master, Orson Scott Card, in his writing boot camp. For a good story can be told whether it is science fiction or Romance, and such a story will resonate with men or women, even one such as me, who doesn't usually read something considered a love story.

To the story itself, Hotel is the life story of Henry Lee, a Chinese boy growing up in Seattle during World War II. From his love of jazz, to his father's anti-Japanese feelings, to his first love, each part of his growing up intertwines with each other. Throw in the questionable tactics of placing all Japanese citizens in relocation camps, and the story takes a similar feel to what the Muslims must have felt like post 9/11.

I can heartily recommend this book to anyone, from high school students (11th grade, in conjunction with WWII) to anyone looking for a really good read.

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