Full Disclosure: I received early access to this book in exchange for sending honest feedback and I couldn’t be more pleased. It was a pleasure to read this story of deep and lasting love. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
In the early 1900s Seattle is a town full of vice where foreign-born children, sold or given away by impoverished parents, can wind up auctioned off as servants, as entertainment at a street fair. This is Ernest Young’s origin story. Half-white, half-Chinese, Ernest passes through the hands of a moralistic do-gooder before he lands as a minimally paid servant in a house of prostitution. There he becomes friends with two girls. One is Japanese born girl, another servant, and the second is the secret daughter of the establishment’s Madam. Ernest falls in love with both.
The book ties together two stories. One is Ernest’s life around 1909, when, as a child, he navigates the politics of a popular brothel with powerful patrons. The second story is Ernest, circa 1962, dealing with the illness of his wife, Gracie, with some help from two grown daughters. What ties the two tales together are two world’s fair, both of which figure prominently in the lives of Ernest and his two childhood friends.
The book is beautifully evocative of the early 1900s, when Seattle is still a lawless place and there’s much to be learned about hypocrisy and the moral war being fought by the wealthy against the downtrodden. But, above all this is a tender love story about love that can last a lifetime and the resiliency of human beings to heal from the most horrid experiences. A very powerful read.