Love and Other Consolation Prizes

Jamie Ford (Songs of Willow Frost) finds inspiration in lost history. For Love and Other Consolation Prizes, the spark came from newspaper articles about a baby raffled off at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909. That startling event ignites into a grand, somewhat unconventional love story in the hands of this master.

Ernest Young is five when his destitute mother sends him to the United States. She hopes her son will have a better chance there than in China. His American life starts out fairly well as a charity student in a boarding school, but takes a sharp turn at 12 when he learns he's a raffle prize at the Seattle World's Fair. The woman possessing the winning ticket is a notorious madam at the Tenderloin, a high-class brothel, where Ernest becomes the houseboy and finds the first situation resembling a family--albeit unusual--that's he's ever experienced.

Ford alternates between 1962 when Seattle is preparing for a second World's Fair and half a century earlier, during Ernest's youth at the Tenderloin. As the second global exposition approaches, Ernest is trying to help Grace, his wife, whose memory has all but deteriorated. In flashbacks to their mutual life at the Tenderloin, Ernest rediscovers the woman he loves but knows, "Memories are narcotic.... Too much and they become dangerous. Too much and they'll stop your heart."

Tender and honest, Love and Other Consolation Prizes unearths compassion and humanity in an unusual corner of Seattle. Every reader will come away a little richer. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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