Ernest Young, “imported” from China as a young boy, becomes the ward/charity of Mrs. Irvine in the Seattle area. At boarding school, though, he is a pariah and unhappy in his circumstances. He tells Mrs. Irvine who solves the problem by raffling him off at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1909. Unbelieveable, really. And, Mrs. Irvine is aghast at the party who has won Ernest. He makes his home in a parlor house in Seattle’s red light district. There he finds acceptance and purpose, to the disbelief of Mrs. Irvine.
Ernest’s two great friends are Maisie, daughter of the house madam, along with Fahn who was sold to slavery from her family back in Japan. The story follows the likely path of these three youth from 1909 to 1962. Love and friendship are strong themes of the book, along with a history lesson of settling Seattle.
Thanks to Ballantine Books for providing me an ARC for a review in my own words.