Love and Other Consolation Prizes: A Novel
As a child in China, Ernest Young witnesses a horrific event that wrests his life in an unimaginable new direction. Given up by his mother, he is sent to the United States with other children, who–if they survive–will be sold to American families. Ernest is better off than many others, with a patron who pays for schooling, but he never could have guessed his fate: he is awarded as a prize at the 1909 Seattle World’s Fair and goes to live and work at a brothel called the Tenderloin. He becomes close friends with two young girls, Fahn and Maisie, and finds that the brothel is a true home–the first he’s ever had. When the madam’s health deteriorates, however, the brothel family is threatened, and Ernest’s loyalty faces the ultimate test.
Interspersed with this storyline from the early 1900s is a parallel story from the 1960s, at the time of the second World’s Fair, when Ernest is struggling with the mental illness of his wife. She and Ernest have secrets to keep, but their grown daughters’ questions are intensifying. As the family secrets unravel, Ford examines how love and loyalty can bind friends across decades and how the bonds forged in childhood can shape a lifetime. A beautiful tale deepened by arresting historical detail.