What to Read if You Liked “Love And Other Consolation Prizes”

If you liked Jamie Ford's Love and Other Consolation Prizes, and it seems that more than a few of you did, I have other books that you might enjoy. Each of them deals with an aspect of Ford's book, but are fine stories in themselves. 

If you haven't read the fine Love and Other Consolation Prizes, here's the lowdown: Ernest Young is of mixed Anglo-Chinese birth and to save him, his mother sells Ernest as an indentured servant bound for Seattle at the turn of the last century. Ernest's most formative years are spent as a houseboy in an upscale brothel, where he falls in love with two girls, one a servant like himself, and the other the daughter of the madam. The tale is bookended by the two World's Fairs held in Seattle, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific in 1909, and the Century 21 Expo in 1962. Both the fairs and Seattle itself play major roles in this highly atmospheric and exhaustively researched story that is both character-driven and subtly compelling.  

Amy Tan is back with another book about the mother-daughter bond in The Valley of Amazement. Like Jamie Ford's book, this one features a high-end disorderly house, the early twentieth century, and an Anglo-Chinese protagonist. Violet is the main character, the madam's daughter, and subject to the chaos that engulfs China between the end of the last dynasty and the Communist takeover. Tan takes care to educate her readers in the milieu and customs of the place and time, and the lush detail is part of the charm of the book. While some might chafe at the deliberate pace of certain sections, there is plenty of action in others as Violet endures the trials of being both daughter and mother in a world of upheaval.

Joanna Scott's Make Believe focuses on the custody battle over a mixed-race child whose teenage mother dies in a car accident. Bo's father died before he was born, and his working-class, African-American, paternal grandparents dote on him. Bo's affluent, white grandparents, however, haven't made much of an effort until they realize that if they gain custody they can sue the hospital for negligence involving Bo's injuries in the crash that killed his mother. While this may seem the stuff of mediocre television drama, Scott's stylistically inventive novel portrays mostly decent people trying to muddle through bad situations and their own limitations. Don't expect a happy ending, but do expect to be moved.

The Century 21 Expo plays a pivotal part in Truth Like the Sun by Jim Lynch. Roger Morgan helped to design the Space Needle, and 40 years later, decides to run for mayor of Seattle. Helen Gulanos is a reporter assigned to do a story on him. While Morgan's story initially checks out, Gulanos soon stumbles onto the corruption and backroom deals that helped make the World's Fair, activities that Morgan was heavily involved in. Gulanos herself has been accused of libel at her previous paper, and the fight is on. Told largely in flashbacks, this fast-paced novel draws comparisons between the idealism and paranoia of the Cold War and the political cynicism of post-9/11 America.

Have more books on these themes? Like Seattle? Let us know in the comments.

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