At the beginning of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, we meet Henry when he's an old man. But most of the story takes place in the past, when he's a young boy living in Seattle during the tumultuous years of World War II. The book revolves around Henry's memories of his childhood best friend and first love, a Japanese American girl named Keiko Okabe. Even though Henry hasn't seen Keiko in many decades, it's clear through his flashbacks and memories that she still means a lot to him and that he regrets the circumstances that have kept them apart.
Questions About Memory and the Past
Why has Henry hunted for the Oscar Holden record all these years?
What does Henry hope to find in the basement of the Panama Hotel?
Why doesn't Henry want to go into Japantown now that he's an older man?
How do Henry's memories of Ethel keep him from seeking out Keiko even after his wife dies?
Chew on This
Even though Henry gives up on finding and reuniting with Keiko so he can concentrate on his family, he still remembers all the times they shared together with great fondness—and this leads to their easy rapport when they finally meet again at the end.
When Henry walks into the basement of the Panama Hotel, it's like entering a time capsule. Faced with all of these belongings that have been left untouched for decades, he can't help but be overcome by memories of Keiko and his childhood.