Tag Archives: Jack Beck

The Monday Book: THE HOTEL AT THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford

In which Jack guest blogs a book review
I don’t read all that many novels, tending more towards history or memoir as a rule. But Wendy and I headed off recently to our remote hideaway cabin in Tennessee, armed with some leftovers from ‘World Book Night’. These included Hotel, which she thought I might like.
Completely captured within a page or two, I could hardly put it down. More than that, I didn’t want to immediately start another one, in order to savor the ‘afterglow’ of Hotel. That may be the first time I’ve ever consciously done that.
The story concerns a Chinese American boy called Henry and a Japanese American girl named Keiko who live in Seattle around the time when Japanese are being rounded up and sent to ‘detention camps’ further inland for the duration of the war.
This seems like it would be a simple ‘boy meets girl’ tale in an historic setting, but there’s much more to it. For a start they are in their early teens and the relationship is (for most of the book) entirely innocent and really about childhood friendship. Hotel more explores the relationship between parents and children, and between different races and generations and all against a turbulent period in history. There’s even a search for a ‘holy grail’.
The detail and painstaking research may explain why I liked it so much. From the speakeasies of wartime Seattle to the bleak windswept detention camps of the mid-West, the author puts you right there, peering over the shoulders of the characters.
Without wishing to spoil this for anyone else, I wish there could have been at least one more chapter, though.
A very enthusiastic ‘two thumbs up’ from this reviewer!

 

6 Comments

Filed under between books, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, out of things to read, publishing, reading, small town USA, writing, YA fiction

Beam me over Scottie!

Jack’s weekly guest blog

Here I go again, a Scots-born American by choice, off to visit the Old Country for a month.

Regular readers will know that I came to live in the US some 11 years past and became a citizen in May 2012. Over here everyone thinks of me as a ‘Furriner’ with an accent so strange I’d have needed an interpreter had my bid for Town Council been successful- not that anyone here has an accent ;0). They also tell odd stories about me not saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

And yet, annually as I go over to my country of birth every year to conduct a small group of folk around Scotland, things have shifted more with each passing year. When I first started doing the tours it definitely felt like going ‘home’ but now it’s much more equivocal – where exactly is ‘home’?

ginnie 2Here in Big Stone Gap I now feel very much at home, and comfortable. The surrounding hills (they call them mountains here, sweet people) remind me of Scotland and the locals have so much Scots blood in their veins that I have no difficulty relating to them. Indeed, these American friends have become the foundation of my life now!

And yet – when I do go back to Scotia/Caledonia/Alba/Scotland/Ecosse it’s rather like boarding a time machine, as I consciously re-calibrate my vocabulary and grammar now that I understand (most of) the differences between American English, British English, and Scots.

So I’m beginning to think, now, of what it is that might actually feel like home to me? Is it a place that shares my politics? Ha! None do. Culture? But I like everybody’s music, dancing and food. It’s not religion, if  ‘good Christian values’ are defended by lying about others – oh no, thank you. I’m tempted to say that living rural does it, but I have very good friends and some truly great memories tucked away in cities.

So, what?

Maybe it’s a combination of the world being a much more connected place now, and me getting older (and wiser?). What got me on this track was a conversation Wendy and I had last night. She will join me in Scotland for a week after this year’s tour finishes and we were talking about old friends we’d want to visit. I found myself looking at this through her eyes and thinking, “Does she feel at home in both places, Scotland and here? Or does  she think of going back to Scotland as a holiday, rather than revisiting our first home?”

So I asked her, and she gave me an enigmatic look. “You’re asking where home is? Honey, human hearts don’t beat with accents. Home is you and me, together.”

Well, yes.WENDY&CAT2

6 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA