Saturday, April 30, 2011

Heaven Is For Real

Author: Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2010
Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and BackReview written by: Brenda Sharp

I just finished HEAVEN IS FOR REAL by Todd Burpo and I highly recommend it. It is a very quick, easy read by the father of a not-yet-four year old who was temporarily dead on the operating table, came back, and over weeks, months, years, slowly divulged things about heaven and lost family members that he had no possible way of knowing about. Not a preachy, adult minister-speak book, but one out of the mouth of a babe.

 (This second link is for the Kindle edition for those of you who would like to read it from your smart phone or kindle.  I love to have a book on my phone to read while I'm waiting in line, or otherwise needing to "kill" time.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author: James Ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetPublisher: Ballantine Books, 2009

 Happily satisfied, I have just this moment finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  The story easily lived up to its name for it is a mix of bitter and sweet well combined to produce a good literary meal.

We first meet Henry, our leading man, in the winter of his years, standing in front of the Panama Hotel in Seattle, Washington.  During renovation, the Panama reveals what it has been hiding since world War II. Workers have found, in the hotel's basement, hundreds of suitcases and boxes left by Japanese families that were relocated to internment camps. The people were only allowed two suitcases each.  That didn't leave room for photo albums, wedding dresses, family heirlooms and other items the American government deemed unnecessary.  After this discovery, we  travel back and forth with Henry between the present and an earlier time when, at age twelve, he a resident of Chinatown with a button attached to his coat that says, "I am Chinese."  Henry's father makes him wear the button so that people do not mistake him for Japanese.
    Henry's young life is not happy.  He is hated by his classmates at the all-white school he attends for being different.   Chinese children make fun of him for attending the "white" school rather than the neighborhood Chinese school.  He has become "uppity" in their eyes, not really Chinese anymore.  He doesn't fit in anywhere, not even at home where his father insists that he speak only "American" even though neither of Henry's parents understand much English.  He can only be himself with his adult friend, Sheldon.  Sheldon is a weathered musician, playing the jazz that Henry loves. On the street, Sheldon and his saxophone play the background music for Henry's life.
    Henry's life changes when he meets Keiko, a Japanese girl who comes to Henry's school. Like Henry Keiko is a scholarship student which means that she works in the kitchen with him at lunch and helps him clean up after school.
    If you know your history, then you know what happens to Keiko and her family. Even though her parents were born in America - her father is a Seattle lawyer- they are sent with all the other Japanese to the prison camps.
    Throughout the book, Henry searches for his life.  In his old age he feels lost like the jazz recording by the great musician, Oscar Holden for which Henry continually searches. It is a record that he knows exists, though many people doubt it.
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is about discovering who you are. It is about what defines each person? What leads our actions? Is it our culture, our parents, our geography, our place in history or is it something more?
     James Ford has told a good story, avoiding being overly sentimental or preachy. He hasn't forced any moral judgment on us, the readers, telling us both sides of the stories involved.  It is easy to see this story as a movie.  The musical score will have to be jazz, the Seattle jazz that had its own personality in the forties. Read the book first so that when the movie is made you will be ready.