Tuesday, March 29, 2011

[book ends] book list: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

[I'm not sure if I should be a little ashamed that it's March 29th and I just finished my first book OF THE YEAR, or if I should just be happy that I actually squeezed the time in the read one at all. Either way, here goes!]

On one level, I enjoyed reading this book. Ever since I started dating my now-husband almost six years ago, I have been very interested in Japanese culture (and especially the effect of WWII on the American-born Japanese in the US), as his dad's side of his family is Japanese. Because of this, I found Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet an eye-opening read; I hadn't yet read anything about the Japanese-Chinese dynamics in the US during WWII, and it was also good to finally read something that portrayed at least some of what the Japanese internment period may have been like for those in the camps. I'd definitely love to read more about this--especially in a nonfiction account, and definitely written from the perspective of someone in the camp, rather than a visitor.

However, I felt there were a few drawbacks to the book. Personally, I found the story a little too sentimental--and this is coming from a girl who loves sentiment. Maybe it was the twelve-year-olds in love (although I believed it in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Series) or maybe it was just that the characters needed a little more depth (we get the impression that Henry is outwardly different than what we are the reader are seeing internally, but we never get to see this for ourselves), but either way, I found myself often thinking "I should be happy about this," or "I think I'm supposed to feel like crying here," but the emotion never went much past that. I think maybe part of this stemmed from the fact that the main characters was at the end of his life, and I got the impression that he had nothing to gain, and nothing to lose. Ultimately, I didn't feel any real stakes for him, and what he was looking for, besides sentiment.

What I will take away from this read is a reminder for my own writing project: no matter how many interesting things may happen in a book, it won't affect the reader unless the characters have depth and something that is at risk in their venture. And so now I'm off to work on just that in my novel.

Happy reading!

L. Stacks

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