By Jamie Ford
Love and Other Consolation Prizes is another lovely historical tale from Jamie Ford, author of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It is based on the true story of a Chinese boy who was raffled off at the 1909 Seattle's World’s Fair, when the owner of the charity house where he had been living put him forward as the grand prize.
Ernest is that 12-year-old boy who comes to live at the Tenderloin, a high class brothel, when the flamboyant owner buys out the raffle to ensure she wins. Brought to the Tenderloin as the house boy, Ernest’s new home is a welcome change since arriving in America from China on a boat at the age of 5. He quickly befriends two young girls living at the house, Maisie, the daughter of the brothel’s madam, and Fahn, a maid. Ernest settles in and develops a sense of family and home through their friendship.
However, things begin to fall apart when the house madam increasingly suffers an illness that jeopardizes the well-being of the house and its residents.
Fast forward to 1962, and the World’s Fair is once again in Seattle and Ernest is reluctantly remembering his life in Seattle fifty years ago. His grown daughter, a journalist, is digging into the past and asking uncomfortable questions to which Ernest does not want to tell her the answers. Ernest struggles to care for his ailing wife, whose memories threaten to expose family secrets he would rather protect his daughters from.
This historical story is told in alternating chapters from the present and the past, transporting the reader between each time while dealing with equality, social justice, class issues, and women’s rights of the times, yet also giving us a heartwarming story of enduring love and the importance of family and home.
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