Nancy M. (Hillsborough, CA)
Songs of Willow Frost
I was thrilled to see Jamie Ford's second novel "Songs of Willow Frost" as a First Impressions book. I absolutely loved his first novel, "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" so was apprehensive that "Songs" would not live up to "Hotel.
I was not disappointed! The setting is Seattle again, of which I am familiar, and the time period is the Depression years of 1921 to 1934, of which I am barely familiar, and that only from hearsay.
Mr. Ford, name not withstanding, is the great-grandson of a Chinese mining pioneer and a past resident of Seattle's Chinatown. Thus his portrayal of the Chinese-American experience in that town and that era is authentic, educational, and interesting.
This story of a 3 year old boy placed in an orphanage by a sickly mother is heart-wrenching. We learn of 'Willy' endearing himself to the other orphans and to the Sisters of Sacred Heart Orphanage. We follow him as he yearns for and searches for his mother, whom he suspects is a well-known exotic movie star. We learn of early movie making in Seattle, an important and little-known industry there.
And, because Mr. Ford writes with insight and sensitivity, we almost understand and forgive a mother who had two choices and decided the orphanage was the best and only place for her young son.
Though this book may not be the block-buster that "Hotel' was, it will please a variety of readers and would be a good Book Club choice.
Julie H. (Pine Grove, PA)
Interesting historical fiction
I enjoyed this story that was told through two perspectives. One side telling of William and his harsh boyhood within a depression-era orphanage and one telling of Willow and her experiences as an female Asian-American within her immigrant culture in the 1920s. The story was engaging and I enjoyed the details given of life during both time periods. The author definitely brought the places and events to life. Willow and William were sympathetic characters and as a reader I was invested in what happened to them. A criticism would be that some of the secondary characters were a little stereotypical in their actions. Although I enjoyed reading the book, it was not a light, feel good book. I would recommend it for book clubs and for lovers of historical fiction as it touched on subjects good for discussion and had a lot of historical period detail.
Sharon P. (Jacksonville, FL)
Songs of Willow Frost
At age 7 William (illegitimate child from rape by his mother's uncle) is taken from his young Chinese mother, who has been badly beaten, and put into "care". Even though he has been told his mother is dead, he has never believed it and holds on to the hope of seeing her again.
On William's 12th birthday (all the childrens' birthdays are celebrated on the same day each year) the boys are given money for treats and a movie. William sees a beautiful oriental performer named Willow Frost. As he watches her, he suddenly is very, very sure....... Willow Frost is his mother. He vows to find her, not an easy task.
This is an incredible story, both heartfelt and rending and very heart warming.
Laurel G. (Pacific Palisades, CA)
Interesting, but not great
I was excited to receive Jamie Ford's Songs of Willow Frost since I loved his first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. However, I found it somewhat less compelling.
The characters were well drawn and the descriptions of living conditions in Seattle in the 20's and 30's were illuminating. It is evident that Jamie Ford did a lot of research for this book. I had to keep in mind the attitudes toward women and the Chinese when I became frustrated with some of the decisions the characters made.
Although this was not one of my favorite books, I would recommend it.
Rita K. (Bannockburn, IL)
When I saw that Jamie Ford had a book for First Impressions, I knew I had to enter to receive a copy. Since I enjoyed reading The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, I was curious about Songs of Willow Frost. Jamie Ford draws you into the story and the characters become real. Even though Wiliam and Willow had some pretty sad times, you had to hope they would finally find a way to once again become part of each other's life I can't wait for it to be published so both my book clubs will be able to read and discuss it.
Carole R. (Burlington, WI)
I really wanted to like this book as much as Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet which I selected for two different book clubs. However, this book just did not click with me. Don't get me wrong, the story line is great and it is evident that Jamie Ford loves Seattle. I guess my reservation is so much history was crammed into the story that it seemed like a history lesson at times. Somehow the facts and the fiction just didn't blend into a readable story for me. If you liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and the backdrop of Seattle history with the Chinese population then you will enjoy this book. The movie making history of Seattle will be interesting too. There's romance, the wicked stepfather and stepmother, adventure, eternal hope and dreams-all ingredients for a good story.
Margie S. (Mount Joy, PA)
Expectation not met
Unfortunately "Songs of Willow Frost" doesn't measure up to Ford's first book "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet". It's not a bad book, but my expectations were so high that I was disappointed. Even so, it's a good read about a mother and her son.