Love and Other Consolation Prizes
Inspired by a true story of an orphan boy who was raffled off at Seattle’s 1909 World Fair.
Ernest Young was given away by his dying Chinese mother at five and sent on a harrowing trip to America in the deep dark hold of a ship. Upon arrival in Seattle he becomes a ward of the state and eventually attracts a wealthy sponsor who sends him to an exclusive boarding school, where he suffers racism and discrimination. When he has the tenacity to tell her he would rather go to another school she has him raffled off at the 1909 Worlds Fair. The winning ticket belongs to Madame Flora, a flamboyant madame in a high class brothel, famous for educating her “Gibson Girls.” Ernest become the new houseboy, and falls in love with Maise, Madame Flora’s young daughter, and the bold Japanese scullery maid name Fahn. Their friendship forms the first real home and family Ernest has known. But as Madame Flora succumbs to occupational illness, Ernest’s home begins to crumble.
Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle’s second Worlds Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was, with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep past secrets hidden from their two grown daughters.
There are people in our lives whom we love, and lose, and forever long for. They orbit our hearts like Halley’s Comet, crossing into our universe only once, or if we are lucky twice in a lifetime. And when the do, they affect our gravity.
A touching book about Chinese and Japanese orphans brought to America for servitude rather than opportunity. The story alternates between Ernest’s past in 1909 and his present day in 1962. It’s focus is on his abiding love for Maisie and Fahn. My favorite part was Ernest’s compassion and sensitivity he shows throughout the book despite his upbringing. The book is slow in parts but you are easily drawn in at the beginning of the story when Ernest is locked in the dingy hold of the ship with other children. It’s a memorable story, one that will remain with you for awhile. Love and Other Consolation Prizes was inspired by the true story featured in the September 1909 issue of the Seattle Times stating there was a raffle at the Worlds Fair for a number of prizes, including a month-old orphan boy, “property of the Washington Children’s Home Society.” Research is currently on-going as to what really happened to baby Ernest. Author JAMIE FORD’s writing is compelling. His debut novel was Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet which spent two years on the NYT bestseller list. His second novel was Songs of Willow Frost, and this historical fiction gem is his third. I listened to the Audible version of this book and found the narration smart and soulful.
“My theory,” Maisie sad, “is that the best, worst, happiest, saddest, scariest, and most memorable moments are all connected. Those are the important times, good and bad. The rest is just filler.”
Publisher Penguin Random House
Published September 12, 2017
Narrated Emily Woo Zeller