I absolutely loved this novel. As I read, I was completely infatuated with the story that was occurring in the early 1900’s. I looked forward to reading about the life that encircled the Tenderloin and the individuals surrounding it. I felt an attachment and a passion towards Ernest and the girls as each one of them was vital, vital to the Tenderloin and crucial to me. Life outside the house was hostile, the controversies were splitting the town, some of them running deeper than what met the eye. As the stories began to twist together more, the story that was developing in the 1960’s tore at my heart and stole the show. Reflecting upon the past, it brought it to the forefront and tried to make it shine. With this sunshine, it also brought the truth.
I fell in love with the historical element of this story. Yung Kun-ai talked about being rounded up with other small children in a cemetery as his mother was no longer able to care for him. Placed inside a ship and held below for a month in the cargo area, he talks of cutting his way out of a burlap bag after being thrown overboard. He is a survivor but for what? Yung’s name is now changed to Ernest and he is attending boarding school, thanks to a Mrs. Irvine. She thinks she is doing him a favor but in reality, Ernest is living it and he wants more. His wanting lands him at the World’s Fair. Exciting! It’s opening day at the fair and it’s time for the raffle. An opening day tradition. As the crowd gathers, Ernest wonders what they are raffling off. Ernest begins to notice that everyone is staring at him. As the questions storm through this head, Mrs. Irvine informs Ernest that he is the raffle. He will be going home with one of the 30,000 attendees. Ernest minds wanders farther, what purpose will he serve them?
Ernest got lucky as his new home is with Madam Flora at the Tenderloin. I liked Ernest’s confidence as he sizes up his new home. He has no idea what he is walking into but he welcomes anything with a positive and firm attitude. Ms. Flora changes Ernest’s life. What she and her business provide for him is far more than he could have obtained elsewhere. It wasn’t all roses for Ernest as he reflects back over the years. It’s a sentimental and reflective time as Ernest thinks about the choices he has made throughout the years. I enjoyed everything about this novel including the relationships and my emotional journey through it. I highly recommend this novel.