Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is historical fiction. It is a bestselling novel (2009) by Jamie Ford about the love and friendship between Henry Lee, a Chinese American boy, and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American girl, during the internment in World War II.

Henry meets a girl named Keiko. Soon, Henry and Keiko bond. The two become very close friends, even though both are bullied due to race. Henry feels a sense of filial piety to his parents. Although kind, Henry sneaks out one night and Keiko gives him her family pictures. Henry must protect these, before they are taken. He then travels with the lunch lady to work at Camp Harmony where he sees her. He follows her with his friend, a local Jazz musician named Sheldon, to Minidoka, Idaho. Upon finding her there, he promises to wait for her. They decide to write each other letters until the war is over, and Henry returns to Seattle.

He religiously mails Keiko letters, but receives very few in return. His father is intent on sending him to China, now that the Japanese are being pushed back, to finish his education traditionally. Henry arrives home one day to find a ticket to China in his name. He agrees to go on the condition that his father (as part of an association of elders) saves the Panama Hotel from being sold. The Panama Hotel is where Keiko's family stored the larger part of their belongings when they were shipped to the internment camps. Many families stored their possessions in the basement of the Hotel.

He then meets the woman he ended up marrying, Ethel, who worked at the post office and became casual friends with him. He did end up meeting Keiko again, though their postal contact was severed by Henry's father, who was stopping the letters in transit. With the help of Henry's son he finds Keiko in New York after she sent a package to Sheldon's funeral. He goes to see her and they have casual conversation, until Keiko begins a Japanese compliment that Henry had spoken to her in during their childhood, which Henry finishes.

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