I would like to start out by saying thank you to Lucybird’s book blog for reviewing this gem, because if I hadn’t seen it there, I am not sure I would have ever found this book!
Synopsis (from amazon)
‘You just gave me hope, Henry. And sometimes hope is enough to get you through anything’
1986, The Panama Hotel
The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War. Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel, stands Henry Lee, and, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, he is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his young heart to, so many years ago.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is about the best book I have read in so long! Each morning I couldn’t wait to get onto the bus so that I could re-connect with Henry, but all too soon I would arrive at work – much to my disgust! The ride home was just as just as great and passed just as quickly. So much so, that on 3 separate occasions I missed my bus stop because I was so engrossed in the book! I absolutely loved Henry!
Admittedly I didn’t know a lot about the Japanese side of the war, the internment, the way they were treated, the impact that it had on communities across the USA. I learned a lot reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet & I think that Ford’s use of a Chinese boy, an outcast, was the perfect choice of character to tell this story.
AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 1 OF EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION BY PAUL BATISTA
When the guard left, the iron door resonated briefly as the magnetic lock engaged itself. Byron sat in a steel folding chair. Directly in front of him was a narrow ledge under a multi-layered, almost opaque plastic window, in the middle of which was a metal circle.
Ali Hussein seemed to just materialize in the small space behind the partition. Dressed in a yellow jumpsuit printed with the initials “FDC” for “Federal Detention Center,” Hussein, who had been described to Byron as an accountant trained at Seton Hall, in Newark, was a slender man who appeared far more mild-mannered than Byron expected. He wore cloth slippers with no shoelaces. The waistband of his jump suit was elasticized—not even a cloth belt. He had as little access to hard objects as possible.
He waited for Byron to speak first. Leaning toward the metal speaker in the partition and raising his voice, Byron said, “You are Mr. Hussein, aren’t you?”
The lawyers at the Civil Liberties Union who had first contacted Byron told him that, in their limited experience with accused terrorists, it sometimes wasn’t clear what their real names were. There were often no fingerprints or DNA samples that could confirm their identities. The name Ali Hussein was as common as a coin. It was as though genetic markers and their histories began only at the moment of their arrest.
“I am.” He spoke perfect, unaccented English. “I don’t know what your name is.”
Almost a year ago I received a request to read this book, from the author. I’m ashamed that it had to wait that long to be read, but I don’t get paid to read, so sometimes gems like this just have to wait.
The Locksmith follows the story of Kurt Kann, from (Jewish) boyhood in Nazi Germany to adulthood in the US army, fighting with the allied forces during WWII. At the beginning of The Locksmith we meet Kurt, a 16-year old Jewish boy who is studying to become a locksmith. When it becomes apparent that bad things are underfoot, that the Nazi party are begining to make sweeping changes to the way Jewish citizens live, Kurt abandons his studies & makes his way back home to save his family.
The Kindness of Strangers follows Mike McIntyre in his journey across the US – from Coast to Coast – penniless. I bought it off Amazon when I was looking for something to read & it caught my eye (partly because it was a free book!) I read it about a week after I bought it & I have to admit, I have some pretty mixed feelings about the book & about Mr. McIntyre’s journey, as a whole.
McIntyre professes to be a man afraid of living & decides to, for the first time in his life, do something brave. He decides that travelling across the USA, coast to coast is the way to combat this fear of living & to make it even more interesting, he decides to do it by hitchhiking penniless. He will be completely reliant on the kindness of strangers for food, shelter & transportation – leaving home with only a backpack, no money & no real food. He plans to start his journey across America in his native California & to end in Cape Fear, North Carolina. He sees it as a way of finding the “real” America, the real Americans. Only real problem is will he succeed? McIntyre readily admits he’s a quitter & his own family are betting on how far from home he will get before he gives up. You’ll have to read the book to see how far he got!
Along the way McIntyre meets a motley crew of “Average” Americans – often people who have little & share much with McIntyre. McIntyre’s journey is an interesting idea, but I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about how he described some of the people he met along the way. He admittedly knew these people for brief moments (sometimes only a few hours), but he makes some pretty hasty (& sometimes mean) judgements.
McIntyre is a journalist & always had it in his mind to turn this journey into a book, I don’t think he did the journey justice in this memoire. He barely touches on the locations he travels to & through & while he met some real salt-of-the earth people along the way, he does little to get to know most of them & makes some pretty shocking judgements of some of them.
It’s a decent book, but I think with a little effort it could have been so much better!