Plano Reads: Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Discuss our February book for the Young@Heart Book Club on Monday, February 10 at 7 pm at Harrington Library.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is our February book choice for the Young@Heart Book Club, meeting Monday, February 10 at Harrington Library at 7 pm. Young@Heart is our newest book club, and is geared for adults who enjoy reading about the lives and emotional experiences of young characters. We will explore adult and young adult fiction and nonfiction for readers who feel “young at heart.” See our 2020 Young@Heart book list here to prepare for future meetings.

Place a hold for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet through the library catalog in print format.

When artifacts from Japanese families sent to internment camps during World War II are uncovered during renovations at a Seattle hotel, Henry Lee embarks on a quest that leads to memories of growing up Chinese in a city rife with anti-Japanese sentiment. – Summary of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet provided by publisher.


A crowd gathers in front of an old hotel, a news crew arrives, and the new hotel owner pops open a Japanese parasol. Could this be the umbrella that was owned by Keiko Okabe before she and her family were sent to an internment camp? Old Henry Lee is transported from 1986 to 1942 “the war years” and a promise made.  Thus, begins Jamie Ford’s debut novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Will Henry finally find his voice? Will he ultimately keep his promise made to Keiko before the forced relocation?

As a Japanese American with family who were interned, I feel that Jamie Ford has written wonderfully about the struggles faced by different groups due to prejudice and racism during the time of WWII. In this time of divisiveness, this initial offering by Jamie Ford recalls a similar time where fear based discrimination destroyed lives, families and whole communities. It is an eloquently written look at the struggles of a young man who has fallen in love with “the wrong person” in the eyes of his family, and how life takes us on paths we never thought it would. – Young @ Heart book club attendee Kanna


Curious about this author? Find out more about Jamie Ford on his website.

Check out this interview with Jamie Ford, done by The Book Reporter Network in 2017, or, listen to this interview with Jamie Ford, done by NPR in 2009.


Below are some questions sourced from Reading Group Guides for thought and discussion:

  1. Why doesn’t Henry’s father want him to speak Cantonese at home? How does this square with his desire to send Henry back to China for school? Isn’t he sending his son a mixed message?
  2. What struggles did your own ancestors have as immigrants to America, and to what extent did they incorporate aspects of their cultural heritage into their new identities as Americans?
  3. Do you think Ethel might have known what was happening with Henry’s letters?
  4. The novel ends with Henry and Keiko meeting again after more than forty years. Jump ahead a year and imagine what has happened to them in that time. Is there any evidence in the novel for this outcome?

If you’ve read Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, or just want to be part of our club, join us on Monday, February 10 at 7 pm at Harrington Library for our Young@Heart Book Club.

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