May 12, 2010

Book Review

So my beautiful friend Hilary sometimes puts on reviews of books, movies, restaurants, etc. on her blog. I thought I'd try it out with a book I just finished reading literally five minutes ago.

First a little back story. For the editing class I'm taking this spring we had to pick five (adult) novels to read, each from a different genre. This is to take us out of our comfort zone (mine being young adult fiction) so that we can understand better what is out there and what the expectations are for certain genres. My teacher assures me that it will help with my editing. The first novel I read was Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson (and Gabrielle Charbonnet). It was fine, a quick read, nothing that real excited big emotions in me either way and therefore not worth a whole review.

It is the second novel that I think deserves a review. Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet follows the life of Henry Lee, going back and forth between 1986 and 1942 in Seattle. Henry was a Chinese boy during the War and become friends with a Japanese girl before her family was shipped off to an internment camp. 40 years later, his wife has died and his son is engaged. As he learns to live without his wife, his past comes back to him in the form of the Panama Hotel in what used to be Nihonmachi (Japantown). The old hotel had been boarded up for 40 years, and when it was bought and reopened the belongings of 40 or so Japanese families are found in the basement.

When I first started reading, I had a really hard time getting into the narrative. I don't usually read things like it and therefore I think my unfamiliarity made it difficult for me to enjoy it. But when I finished, I knew that the ending made it worth it. As I trudged through Henry's hardships both as a child in the war years and an adult dealing with the loss of his wife, I actually began to feel like I understood Henry. I'm not Chinese, I didn't grow up during a terrible war, I haven't ever lost someone I loved, but Ford helped me understand how that would feel. It's a hard journey to learn to let the past back into your life--to come to terms with an oppressive parent, a lost childhood friend, and all the mistakes you made. This book did excite emotions in me--I was on the verge of tears by the end, tears of sadness and happiness (I know, you're thinking that it doesn't take much for me to cry, but it's still a mark of good writing).

I don't know if you'll want to read it, maybe it won't take as long for you to get into it as I did. Maybe it just took so long because of the pacing of my life right now. But I think that you'll be changed a little if you read it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for such a lovely review, tears and all...

    Best to you!