Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel

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BONUS: This edition contains a Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet discussion guide and an excerpt from Jamie Ford's Songs of Willow Frost.

"Sentimental, heartfelt….the exploration of Henry’s changing relationship with his family and with Keiko will keep most readers turning pages...A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices."-- Kirkus Reviews

“A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war--not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel."
-- Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”
-- Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.
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From the bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet comes a powerful novel, inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle’s epic 1909 World’s Fair.

“An evocative, heartfelt, beautifully crafted story that shines a light on a fascinating, tragic bit of forgotten history.”—Kristin Hannah, author of The Nightingale

For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World’s Fair feels like a gift. But only once he’s there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off—a healthy boy “to a good home.”

The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam’s precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known—and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he’s always desired.

But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.

Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle’s second World’s Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.

Against a rich backdrop of post-Victorian vice, suffrage, and celebration, Love and Other Consolations is an enchanting tale about innocence and devotion—in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale.

Praise for Love and Other Consolation Prizes

“Exciting . . . [Jamie] Ford captures the thrill of first kisses and the shock of revealing long-hidden affairs.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Strong . . . A laudable effort that shines light on little known histories.”—Library Journal
 
“Poignant . . . Vibrantly rendered.”—Booklist
  
“Combining rich narrative and literary qualities, the book achieves a multi-faceted emotional resonance. It is by turns heart-rending, tragic, disturbing, sanguine, warm, and life-affirming. Perceptive themes that run throughout culminate at the end. A true story from the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition inspired this very absorbing and moving novel. Highly recommended.”—Historical Novel Society (Editors’ choice)

“Ford is a master at shining light into dark, forgotten corners of history and revealing the most unexpected and relatable human threads. . . . A beautiful and enthralling story of resilience and the many permutations of love.”—Jessica Shattuck, author of The Women in the Castle

“All the charm and heartbreak of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet . . . Based on a true story, Love and Other Consolation Prizes will warm your soul.”—Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From Jamie Ford, author of the beloved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, comes a much-anticipated second novel. Set against the backdrop of Depression-era Seattle, Songs of Willow Frost is a powerful tale of two souls—a boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past—both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
 
Determined to find Willow and prove that his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigate the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
 
Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.

Praise for Songs of Willow Frost
 
“If you liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, you’re going to love Songs of Willow Frost. . . . tender, powerful, and deeply satisfying.”—Lisa Genova
 
“[A] poignant tale of lost and found love.”—Tampa Bay Times
 
“Arresting . . . [with] the kind of ending readers always hope for, but seldom get.”—The Dallas Morning News
 
“[An] achingly tender story . . . a tale of nuance and emotion.”—The Providence Journal
 
“Ford crafts [a] beautiful, tender tale of love transcending the sins people perpetrate on one another and shows how the strength of our primal relationships is the best part of our human nature.”—Great Falls Tribune
 
“Remarkable . . . likely to appeal to readers who enjoy the multi-generational novels of Amy Tan.”—Bookreporter
 
“Jamie Ford is a first-rate novelist, and with Songs of Willow Frost he takes a great leap forward and demonstrates the uncanny ability to move me to tears.”—Pat Conroy
 
“With vivid detail, Jamie Ford brings to life Seattle’s Chinatown during the Depression and chronicles the high price those desperate times exacted from an orphaned boy and the woman he believes is his mother. Songs of Willow Frost is about innocence and the loss of it, about longing, about the power of remembered love.”—Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank
 
“Ford’s boundless compassion for the human spirit, in all its strengths and weaknesses, makes him one of our most unique and compelling storytellers.”—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
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Additional Information

Publisher
Ballantine Books
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Published on
Jan 27, 2009
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780345512505
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Historical / General
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Sagas
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

The author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and Shanghai Girls has garnered international acclaim for her great skill at rendering the intricate relationships of women and the complex meeting of history and fate. Now comes Lisa See’s highly anticipated new novel, China Dolls.
 
It’s 1938 in San Francisco: a world’s fair is preparing to open on Treasure Island, a war is brewing overseas, and the city is alive with possibilities. Grace, Helen, and Ruby, three young women from very different backgrounds, meet by chance at the exclusive and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. Grace Lee, an American-born Chinese girl, has fled the Midwest with nothing but heartache, talent, and a pair of dancing shoes. Helen Fong lives with her extended family in Chinatown, where her traditional parents insist that she guard her reputation like a piece of jade. The stunning Ruby Tom challenges the boundaries of convention at every turn with her defiant attitude and no-holds-barred ambition.
 
The girls become fast friends, relying on one another through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes. When their dark secrets are exposed and the invisible thread of fate binds them even tighter, they find the strength and resilience to reach for their dreams. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives, and a shocking act of betrayal changes everything.

Praise for China Dolls
 
“Superb . . . This emotional, informative and brilliant page-turner resonates with resilience and humanity.”—The Washington Post
 
“This is one of those stories I’ve always wanted to tell, but Lisa See beat me to it, and she did it better than I ever could. Bravo! Here’s a roaring standing ovation for this heartwarming journey into the glittering golden age of Chinese nightclubs.”—Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
 
“A fascinating portrait of life as a Chinese-American woman in the 1930s and ’40s.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“A sweeping, turbulent tale of passion, friendship, good fortune, bad fortune, perfidy and the hope of reconciliation.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Lisa See masterfully creates unforgettable characters that linger in your memory long after you close the pages.”—Bookreporter
 
“Stellar . . . The depth of See’s characters and her winning prose makes this book a wonderful journey through love and loss.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“China Dolls plunges us into a fascinating history and offers an accessible meditation on themes that are still urgent in our contemporary world.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
“China Dolls is [Lisa See’s] most penetrating since Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”—The Seattle Times
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A gifted writer . . . explores the bonds of sisterhood while powerfully evoking the often nightmarish American immigrant experience.”—USA Today

BONUS: This edition contains a Shanghai Girls discussion guide and an excerpt from Lisa See's Dreams of Joy.

In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn’t be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules.

At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are: Shanghai girls.

Praise for Shanghai Girls

“A buoyant and lustrous paean to the bonds of sisterhood.”–Booklist

“A rich work . . . as compulsively readable as it is an enlightening journey.”—Denver Post
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Astonishing . . . one of those hard-to-put-down-until-four-in-the morning books . . . a story with characters who enter a reader’s life, take up residence, and illuminate the myriad decisions and stories that make up human history.”—Los Angeles Times

In her most powerful novel yet, acclaimed author Lisa See returns to the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy. Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the Communist regime. Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.

BONUS: This edition contains a Dreams of Joy discussion guide.

Praise for Dreams of Joy

“[Lisa] See is a gifted historical novelist. . . . The real love story, the one that’s artfully shown, is between mother and daughter, and aunt and daughter, as both of the women who had a part in making Joy return to China come to her rescue. . . . [In Dreams of Joy,] there are no clear heroes or villains, just people who often take wrong turns to their own detriment but for the good of the story, leading to greater strength of character and more durable relationships.”—San Francisco Chronicle 

“A heartwarming story of heroic love between a mother and daughter . . . No writer has better captured the voice and heart of Chinese culture.”—Bookreporter 

“Once again, See’s research feels impeccable, and she has created an authentic, visually arresting world.”—The Washington Post
From the bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet comes a powerful novel, inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle’s epic 1909 World’s Fair.

“An evocative, heartfelt, beautifully crafted story that shines a light on a fascinating, tragic bit of forgotten history.”—Kristin Hannah, author of The Nightingale

For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World’s Fair feels like a gift. But only once he’s there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off—a healthy boy “to a good home.”

The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam’s precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known—and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he’s always desired.

But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.

Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle’s second World’s Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.

Against a rich backdrop of post-Victorian vice, suffrage, and celebration, Love and Other Consolations is an enchanting tale about innocence and devotion—in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale.

Praise for Love and Other Consolation Prizes

“Exciting . . . [Jamie] Ford captures the thrill of first kisses and the shock of revealing long-hidden affairs.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Strong . . . A laudable effort that shines light on little known histories.”—Library Journal
 
“Poignant . . . Vibrantly rendered.”—Booklist
  
“Combining rich narrative and literary qualities, the book achieves a multi-faceted emotional resonance. It is by turns heart-rending, tragic, disturbing, sanguine, warm, and life-affirming. Perceptive themes that run throughout culminate at the end. A true story from the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition inspired this very absorbing and moving novel. Highly recommended.”—Historical Novel Society (Editors’ choice)

“Ford is a master at shining light into dark, forgotten corners of history and revealing the most unexpected and relatable human threads. . . . A beautiful and enthralling story of resilience and the many permutations of love.”—Jessica Shattuck, author of The Women in the Castle

“All the charm and heartbreak of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet . . . Based on a true story, Love and Other Consolation Prizes will warm your soul.”—Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From Jamie Ford, author of the beloved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, comes a much-anticipated second novel. Set against the backdrop of Depression-era Seattle, Songs of Willow Frost is a powerful tale of two souls—a boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past—both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
 
Determined to find Willow and prove that his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigate the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
 
Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.

Praise for Songs of Willow Frost
 
“If you liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, you’re going to love Songs of Willow Frost. . . . tender, powerful, and deeply satisfying.”—Lisa Genova
 
“[A] poignant tale of lost and found love.”—Tampa Bay Times
 
“Arresting . . . [with] the kind of ending readers always hope for, but seldom get.”—The Dallas Morning News
 
“[An] achingly tender story . . . a tale of nuance and emotion.”—The Providence Journal
 
“Ford crafts [a] beautiful, tender tale of love transcending the sins people perpetrate on one another and shows how the strength of our primal relationships is the best part of our human nature.”—Great Falls Tribune
 
“Remarkable . . . likely to appeal to readers who enjoy the multi-generational novels of Amy Tan.”—Bookreporter
 
“Jamie Ford is a first-rate novelist, and with Songs of Willow Frost he takes a great leap forward and demonstrates the uncanny ability to move me to tears.”—Pat Conroy
 
“With vivid detail, Jamie Ford brings to life Seattle’s Chinatown during the Depression and chronicles the high price those desperate times exacted from an orphaned boy and the woman he believes is his mother. Songs of Willow Frost is about innocence and the loss of it, about longing, about the power of remembered love.”—Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank
 
“Ford’s boundless compassion for the human spirit, in all its strengths and weaknesses, makes him one of our most unique and compelling storytellers.”—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
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