I am happy that I seldom listen to book critics. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel (2009) by Jamie Ford has gotten mixed reviews, one of which called it "flat" and "strained." I did not find it either. I very much enjoyed this novel.
It is a love story between a young Chinese-American boy of twelve and a young Japanese-American girl of twelve, Henry and Keiko. The story is set in Seattle and alternates between the 1940's and the 1980's. After the belongings of Japanese families sent to internment camps during WWII are found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, Henry begins to remember that time of anti-Japanese sentiment and the bigotry shown to the Chinese as well. What ensues is Henry's narrative of his life then and in the present time of the novel.
Henry and Keiko meet while working as scholarship kids in a "white" school. They are separated when Keiko and her family are sent to the camps. They are devoted to each other and defy Henry's parents to maintain their relationship. I think the passages set in the 1940's and involving the internment are exceptionally well written and from a fresh perspective. The 1980's passages are less interesting by comparison but still held my interest in the comparison of the relationships Henry had with his father and with his son.
Henry and Keiko are separated by the historical events of the time, and since this is Henry's narrative we learn about his life, his wife, and his son. What happens in Keiko's life is a mystery.