By: Jamie Ford
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars
A powerful novel about an orphan boy who is raffled off at Seattle’s 1909 World Fair, and the friends who teach him what it really means to have a family, from the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
Inspired by a true story, this is the unforgettable story of a young boy named Ernest, set during the 1909 Seattle world’s fair called the Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo. It is a time when the magical wonders of technology on display at the expo future seems limitless. But for Ernest, a half-Chinese orphan who found his way to America through a last desperate act of his beloved mother, every door is closed. A charity student at a boarding school, he has never really had a place to call home. Then one day, his wealthy sponsor announces that if a home is what he wants, then that is what he will have: Ernest will be offered as a prize in the daily raffle at the fair, advertised as “Healthy boy to a good home for the winning ticket holder.” The woman who “wins” him is the madam of a notorious brothel who was famous for educating her girls. He becomes a houseboy in her brothel and is befriended by the daughter of the madam, as well as a Japanese girl who works in the kitchen. The friendship and love between these three form the first real family Ernest has ever known.
I love Ford's books. Seeing that he has this coming out soon just makes my heart happy and makes me want to go back and read his others again (See my review for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet). I think he is the perfect writer for book clubs because his writing is well thought out, engaging and definitely prompts discussion.
Ford is able to weave in between times perfectly. I can have difficulty with authors trying to go back and forth in time - it can seem disjointed, or the future thinking colors the past and it's just not great - also it is difficult to avoid plot twists because you think you have it figured out but Ford does it masterfully in this novel. Going back and exploring the lives of these poor children who are given up because they are either unwanted, or the parents can't take care of them any longer just breaks my heart. But seeing their resilience was beautiful.
A big point to touch on was the suffragettes and their insistance on the morality of Seattle. I am not in any way shape or form an advocate for prostitution, but I am not in favor of marching around telling anyone forced into that kind of life that they are all going straight to hell. I think Ford did a good job of making me pause and think of how there is a need to see the people behind the actions that offend us and that we need to see how we can help others rise rather than look at their failures with the mindset of "I told you this would happen."
Really there is too much going on in this story for me to discuss it all here. Go and get it for book club, your group will not be disappointed.
**Copy given to me in exchange for an honest review**