Book Review: Songs of Willow Frost
Author: Jamie Ford
Publisher: Ballantine Books, September, 2013
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: The publisher via TLC Book Tours
My Rating: A
My reading friends and I have been patiently waiting for Jamie Ford to bring us another one of his special stories. We all truly enjoyed Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I actually read it with two book clubs and I have yet to find anyone who didn’t truly love that story.
Well friends, here we are with his new one. It was worth the wait. I started writing a summary for you, but it was so long that I was sure you would give up on it. So let me share with you the book description from the publisher.
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
Determined to find Willow and prove that his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigate the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
I am such a sucker for stories told from the perspective of twelve-year-olds, especially when the character is so in need of love and a sense of belonging. William is that kind of character and more. He sees the world through an honest lens, but he’s also forgiving and kind to others.
The story begins during the harshest times of the Great Depression (1934) when orphanages were full – not because so many parents had died, but because many parents didn’t have the where-with-all to take care of their children. When William finds Willow Frost, he hears her story which reaches back to the 1920s.
The story is very sad and sometimes maddening. I used up a good portion of a tissue box but that’s a good thing. Sometimes it feels good to have a good cry, don’t you think? For me, it means that the characters are so sympathetically portrayed, they felt real.
The other thing I liked in this book was that the author did the same thing he did in Hotel - he put me right into the setting of Seattle and the buildings and rooms he described. He likes to say things like, “the big Woolworth’s on Third Avenue” and “the old Perry Hotel.” It made me feel as if I know the place.
The final word is that, if you liked Hotel, you’ll also enjoy the Songs of Willow Frost. If you loved Henry in Hotel, you lovee William as well.
About the author: Jamie Ford
The son of a Chinese American father, Jamie Ford is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which won the Asian-Pacific American Award for Literature. Having grown up in Seattle, he now lives in Montana with his wife and children.
Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: TLC Book Tours