Published by Random House Audio Publishing Group on September 12th 2017
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Inspired by a true story, Jamie Ford has written a wonderfully moving historical novel about a boy who is auctioned off during Seattle’s 1909 World Fair. Ernest was born in China to a Chinese Mother and Western Missionary Father. His Mother, unable to care for him, sells him to a man who places him on a ship with other sold or unwanted children. Eventually he reaches American and is extremely lucky to be alive – not all children survived the trip. Through a course of events, Ernest is enrolled at a charity school and is very excited at the opportunity to attend the World Fair where he will get to see and experience many new and exciting things. Imagine his surprise when he learns that he is to be auctioned off as the main prize. The winning ticket goes to a madam of a high class brothel. He is to be the house boy at the brothel- running errands and basically doing any chores that are needed. In the brothel, he eventually makes friend’s with the Madam’s daughter Masie and is re-connected with Fahn – a Japanese girl he met on the boat to America. Life in the brothel is not bad for Ernest; in face he is treated quite well. Ernest gets a sense of family for the first time in his life. He is eating real meals, has a purpose and has made friends.
This book goes back in forth in time. We see Ernest as a young boy but we also see Ernest 50 years later as an older man with grown daughters and a wife who needs special care. Ernest is content with his life until one day, his daughter who is an investigative reporter begins asking him questions about a boy who was auctioned off at the World Fair so long ago. That her Mother, who is not always coherent, told her about the boy. Ernest’s daughter puts two and two together and asks Ernest if he is the boy in question. Ernest then looks back on his life and realizes that he can’t keep the family’s secrets a secret any longer. But his secrets are not his own. There are also things about his wife that their daughters do not know about.
Jamie Ford has written a beautiful historical novel touching on so many subjects: poverty, first love, human trafficking, prostitution, culture, belonging, family, family secrets, loyalty and devotion. I could gush for a long time about this book. Jamie Ford has painted a very vivid (and sometimes heartbreaking) picture of one boy’s/man’s life. This book oozes with history and atmosphere. There are certain things a reader can depend upon, one of them is that Jamie Ford will write books that cause one to think, feel, and learn. He has a gift for writing characters that readers care about. He transports us to another time and other cultures. Not only does he dazzles us with his writing skills, he educates us on culture and history. Ernest goes on a journey in this book and I felt like I went on that journey with him.
I highly recommend this book!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.