Monday, April 30, 2012

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Review

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a Starbucks waiting a rather long time for a cup of coffee.  I am glad the coffee at Starbucks is strong and distinctive, but you would have thought I ordered a special dinner given the length of time it took to pour some joe into a paper cup.

While I was waiting I noticed that they had a book shelf where sippers were invited to leave or take a book. I saw Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  I'd heard about the book and had seen that it spent some time on a best seller list.  So, I picked it up.

It is surprising to me on more than an irregular occasion how some books are heralded and remain on best seller lists when I just don't see what all the commotion is about.  The Tipping Point has been lingering on the list forever, yet I found the book, as my grandfather was prone to say, "not so extra."   While I imagine I will be attacked by the cognoscenti I still cannot see the hoopla behind The Great Gatsby and Catch 22.

Hotel.. is not really in the category of these overpraised books.  I liked Hotel, but what I found most interesting about it, was that it was so simple, just ordinarily written, so similar in plot line to many books, and yet a book that people loved.  And I think I understand why.

Here is what the book is about.  A boy falls in love with a girl when he is a young teenager. She feels similarly, but forces separate them.  After a long period he seeks her out, knowing that she was the love of his life.

How many books, movies are like this.  Slumdog Millionaire, Love in the Time of Cholera, come quickly to mind.  Hotel... has the added plot line of an intercultural romance and the Japanese internment during World War II.  Those who saw the film or read the great book, Snow Falling on Cedars are familiar with this as well.  But not nearly as nuanced or as well written as Snow Falling on Cedars.

So, how come books like this one are grabbed out of libraries and bookstores?  It's not a bad book, but from page 10 you can predict what is going to happen and, if you are knowledgeable even a tiny bit about World War II and the Japanese internment you probably know why.

The answer, I think, is simply that many people can relate to the power of relationships and the need for people to stay connected and not be forgotten.