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Cover image for Love and other consolation prizes : a novel
Love and other consolation prizes : a novel

First large print edition.
New York : Random House Large Print, [2017]
Physical Description:
463 pages (large print) : illustration ; 24 cm
A half-Chinese orphan whose mother sacrificed everything to give him a better chance is raffled off as a prize at Seattle's 1909 World's Fair, only to land in the ownership of the madam of a notorious brothel where he finds friendship and opportunities, in a story based on true events.


Call Number

On Order



From the bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet comes a powerful novel, inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.

"An evocative, heartfelt, beautifully crafted story that shines a light on a fascinating, tragic bit of forgotten history."--Kristin Hannah, author of The Nightingale

For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World's Fair feels like a gift. But only once he's there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off--a healthy boy "to a good home."

The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam's precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known--and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he's always desired.

But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.

Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle's second World's Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.

Against a rich backdrop of post-Victorian vice, suffrage, and celebration, Love and Other Consolations is an enchanting tale about innocence and devotion--in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale.

Praise for Love and Other Consolation Prizes

"Exciting . . . [Jamie] Ford captures the thrill of first kisses and the shock of revealing long-hidden affairs." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Strong . . . A laudable effort that shines light on little known histories."-- Library Journal

"Poignant . . . Vibrantly rendered." -- Booklist

"Combining rich narrative and literary qualities, the book achieves a multi-faceted emotional resonance. It is by turns heart-rending, tragic, disturbing, sanguine, warm, and life-affirming. Perceptive themes that run throughout culminate at the end. A true story from the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition inspired this very absorbing and moving novel. Highly recommended." -- Historical Novel Society (Editors' choice)

"Ford is a master at shining light into dark, forgotten corners of history and revealing the most unexpected and relatable human threads. . . . A beautiful and enthralling story of resilience and the many permutations of love." --Jessica Shattuck, author of The Women in the Castle

"All the charm and heartbreak of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet . . . Based on a true story, Love and Other Consolation Prizes will warm your soul." --Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls

Author Notes

Jamie Ford graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle in 1988 and worked as an art director and as a creative director in advertising. He is also an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp. His books include Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this uneven novel from Ford (Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet), the 1962 Seattle World's Fair brings back memories for Ernest Young, né Yung Kun-ai, a man in his 60s. In 1902, Ernest travels in steerage to the United States and ends up in a Seattle orphanage. In 1909 he's auctioned off at the World's Fair, becoming a houseboy in an upscale brothel in the Tenderloin district. There he befriends Fahn, a Japanese girl who was in steerage with him seven years prior, and Maisie, the madam's daughter, falling in love with both of them. Back in 1962, it's made clear that Ernest's ailing wife, now called Gracie, shares his difficult past-but which girl he married frustratingly isn't revealed until late in the book. Their grown children, Hanny, a Vegas dancer, and Juju, a journalist, don't have the full story about their parents' history until Juju discovers an article about a boy auctioned off at the 1909 fair whose name was "Ernest" and wants to delve further into it. Despite the book's flaws, Ford nevertheless excels at juxtaposing Seattle in the 1910s, with its Temperance movements, prostitution, and political involvement in the city's underbelly, against the glitter and promise of the 1962 World's Fair. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Too old to dream of being adopted, Ernest Young is raffled off at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific World Exposition to Madame Flora, who runs a notorious brothel. His adventures have just begun.Ernest has already lived a lifetime of surprises and indignities. After his starving Chinese mother secured her only son a spot on a freighter to America, Ernest, only 5 years old, had to learn swiftly how to navigate a world that denigrated him not only for being an orphan, but also, and perhaps worse, for being of mixed blood. Ernest never knew his white father, but his youth and mixed heritage enabled him to make friends with both the Chinese girls on the ship and the lone Japanese girl, Fahn. Once Ernest survived a month captive in the hold of the ship, not to mention a near drowning, he became a ward of the state in Seattle and eventually attracted a wealthy sponsor, who sent him to an exclusive boarding school, where he endured racism and discrimination, and then, when he has the temerity to tell her he would rather go to another school, she has him raffled off at the World's Fair. Surprisingly, life in the bordello is exciting, not least because there Ernest meets Madame Flora's tomboyishly charming daughter, Maisie, and reunites with Fahn. Falling in love with both, however, can only lead to heartache, since life in a brothel exacts certain prices. Ford (Songs of Willow Frost, 2014, etc.) casts this complex love story against the backdrop of the little-known history of Chinese and Japanese orphans, who found slavery and indentured servitude rather than opportunity in America. Now in his 60s , Ernest faces his wife Gracie's declining control over her memory, which endangers the secrets he has kept from their daughters. But now their eldest, an investigative reporter, has begun to discover some potentially scandalous secrets. Alternating between Ernest's past and present, Ford captures the thrill of first kisses and the shock of revealing long-hidden affairs. A lively history of romance in the dens of iniquity, love despite vice. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Seattle's two world's fairs frame Ford's (Songs of Willow Frost, 2013) new novel. Twelve-year-old Ernest Young, who at age five was sold by his desperately poor Chinese mother and put on a freighter headed for Seattle, is the prize in a raffle at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The highest bidder turns out to be Madame Flora, proprietor of a high-class brothel called the Tenderloin. There Ernest finds a home, works his way up from houseboy to chauffeur, and falls in love with two girls, Maisie, Madame Flora's daughter, and Fahn, a Japanese girl who works at the Tenderloin as a kitchen maid. More than 50 years later, Ernest's daughter Juju, a journalist, decides to write a then-and-now piece to coincide with the opening of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, and this triggers a flood of memories, all the more poignant because Ernest's wife is suffering from memory loss. Ford is a romantic rather than a realist, keeping the novel buoyant despite some difficult subject matter human trafficking, for example. A vibrantly rendered setting adds to the appeal.--Quinn, Mary Ellen Copyright 2017 Booklist

Library Journal Review

In his third novel, Ford returns with a story framed much like his debut best seller, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. A historical romance with a Chinese American boy and a Japanese American girl as its centerpiece, the story moves between two time periods: that of the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition and the 1962 Century 21 Exposition. Basing his narrative on research of actual events and people, including one unfortunate child named Ernest Young, who was raffled off at the 1909 World's Fair and a notorious "madam" of elite companionship, Ford ambitiously attempts to highlight social movements and ills of the time. The novel starts off strong, weaving Ernest's tale with the flourishing of human trade from East Asia to the United States (more than 50 years after the Emancipation Proclamation), then going on to portray the height of Seattle's red-light district against the peak of Washington state's suffrage movement. The latter half of the book feels rushed, with what is perhaps a too-tidy ending. Still, it's a laudable effort that shines light on little-known histories. VERDICT With its chivalrous protagonist, this coming-of-age story-cum-romance has just enough emotional resonance to move most readers. [Library marketing.]-Suzanne Im, Los Angeles P.L. © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.