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.
This book is sad at times, but also very heartfelt and inspirational. It is based on a true story, which is one of my favorite types of books to read.
Juju finds a newspaper clipping from The Kennewick Courier.
Seattle – A boy, the charge of the Washington Children’s Home Society, was one of the prizes offered at the exposition. His name is Ernest and maybe he will have a surname if the winner, holding the proper ticket, comes to claim him.
Juju is Ernest Young’s daughter and a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Upon finding the newspaper clipping she confronts her dad and wants to know if he is the Ernest in the article.
“It says Ernest. Was this you? I mean – you once told me how you ended up at the Washington Children’s Home after you came here from China. And you said you were given a job as a houseboy after the world’s fair. You told me that’s where you met mom.”
Ernest is hesitant, but eventually opens up about his past as well as Juju’s mom Gracie’s past.
Ernest sighed. He didn’t know how to explain that his childhood was also Gracie’s childhood. And that whatever indignities he’d suffered through, hers were a thousand times worse – especially in the eyes of their friends and neighbors.
This story is told in alternating time periods, the early 1900’s and 1962. The early 1900’s spans several years from the time Ernest was very young in China, through his travels to America, and how he ends up at the Tenderloin.
This is a beautifully written love story, but it’s really so much more. It’s a touching story of survival and perseverance. Ernest did not lead an easy life, but he always made the best of what he did have. It isn’t until he arrives at the Tenderloin, albeit a gentlemen’s club, that he finally finds a place to call home. It’s there that he meets two girls his age, Maisie and Fahn. The three of them become best friends and he finds himself falling for both of them. Who does Ernest decide to love forever and have a family with? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
I read and loved The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and I’m very happy to say that Jamie Ford has written another wonderful book. Those who love historical fiction won’t want to miss out on this sweet story.
*Thank you NetGalley, Ballantine Books, and Jamie Ford for the opportunity to read and review this book for my honest opinion.
Have you read this book or another book by Jamie Ford?
My Rating: 4/5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 320 (eBook)