Songs of Willow Frost: Book summary and reviews of Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Songs of Willow Frost

By Jamie Ford

Songs of Willow Frost
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

From Jamie Ford, the New York Times bestselling author of the beloved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, comes a much-anticipated second novel. Set against the backdrop of Depression-era Seattle, Songs of Willow Frost is a powerful tale of two souls - a boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past - both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness.

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.

Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford's sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Often muted and simplified, his prose underscores the emotional depression of his main characters; yet that same flatness tethers the tale, inhibiting lyricism; a heartbreaking yet subdued story." - Kirkus

"This new novel by the author of the popular debut Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet paints a many-colored entangled double portrait of a young boy and a woman. Easy to recommend." - Barnes and Noble

"Ford is a first-rate novelist whose bestselling debut, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was a joy to read. With his new book, he takes a great leap forward and demonstrates the uncanny ability to move me to tears." - Pat Conroy, author of South of Broad

"This is a tender, powerful, and deeply satisfying story about the universal quest for love, forgiveness, belonging, and family. If you liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, you're going to love Songs of Willow Frost." - Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice

"I could not turn away from the haunting story or the stunning historical details that bring Depression-era Seattle to cinematic life. Ford's boundless compassion for the human spirit, in all its strengths and weaknesses, makes him one of our most unique and compelling storytellers." - Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

"A beautiful novel...William's journey is one you'll savor, and then think about long after the book is closed. I loved it." - Susan Wiggs, author of The Apple Orchard

"One of those rare books that move right into your heart and stay there. Ford's new - and long-awaited - book is a delight to read, and is destined to become a book-club favorite." - Anne Fortier, author of Juliet

"Ford has done it again, creating characters so full of passion and courage that we cannot help but follow them into the pages of history." - Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation

"Ford weaves another rich tapestry of history and family drama in this cliff-hanging tale of an abandoned boy and the Chinese American singer he is convinced is his missing mother. Hope and fate, laughs and tears: Songs of Willow Frost has it all." - Ivan Doig, author of The Bartender's Tale

"An engrossing saga...Ford has done it again." - Patricia Wood, author of Lottery

The information about Songs of Willow Frost shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Leslie D.
Unusual historical setting
Jamie Ford fans will relish his new book, which contains many of the same themes as Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but which is very different in time period, characters and plot. Once again, it revolves around the Asian community on the West Coast and the difficulties of the immigrant/first-generation experience. I liked it for the amazing historical detail and the unusual setting (orphanage in the early 20th century, Depression era), and it also contains many of the emotional elements of his first novel: a little over the top for me at times but compelling and wistful.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Dorothy T.
An engaging read
This is Jamie Ford’s second novel, and I liked it even better than his first, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.” I can see that he will become a popular and accomplished author. He is gifted with style and story-telling ability.

Like the first novel, this one is set in the Seattle area in the past, this time during the early 1920s and the Depression, and again has Chinese-Americans as the main characters. The story centers on young William and his mother Liu Song, a singer who later becomes a famous actress known as Willow Frost. Ford presents us with an emotional roller-coaster ride as William deals with life in the orphanage and tries to match up his image of the movie star with the memories of his mother, and as Liu Song does whatever she feels she must to keep her son and to protect him from his father.

This book is definitely a good choice for book club discussions, and it is one that will stay with me for a long time.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Mary Q. (Greeley, CO)
Songs of Willow Frost
I reacted to Jamie Ford's second novel exactly the way I did to his first: I LOVED it! Though the stories are very different, I found Songs of Willow Frost to be quite similar to Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in terms of the author's unique voice and my emotional response. I learned a great deal about that time in history (1920s-1930s), and I completely fell in love with the well-defined characters. I'll miss them. I would highly recommend this wonderful book to, really, anyone who loves to read, and definitely to book groups for the wealth of discussion topics throughout the book.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Teresa M. (Naples, FL)
songs of willow frost
I really wanted to like this book, as I loved the author's first book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. However, I had a hard time getting into and finishing the book. Ford obviously did his research on Seattle in the 20's and 30's, but I felt all the details bogged down the story. There were too many historical flourishes. I loved the character William and learning about orphanages, but this book just didn't flow for me. I didn't dislike the book, but didn't love it either.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Maggie S. (Durango, CO)
Songs of Willow Frost
The Songs of Willow Frost is a poignant story about family, tradition, and what we do for love. A young Chinese American woman and her son must cope with the hardships of the Great Depression, both together and apart. The combination of setting and characters creates a world of believable and sympathetic humanity. I very much enjoyed the author's first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but this one touched me more. Highly recommended.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Charlene M. (Murrells Inlet, SC)
Songs of Willow Frost
Jamie Ford's story, Songs of Willow Frost, of a Chinese American orphan William Eng's life during the depression, the sketchy memories of his life with his mother, and the eventual search for her because of a brief glimpse and the unforgettable voice of a woman performing on Movietone Follies at a local theater, is both unique and heart wrenching.

...27 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Jamie Ford Author Biography

Photo: Laurence Kim

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Having grown up near Seattle’s Chinatown, he now lives in Montana with his wife and children. Visit him at jamieford.com

Author Interview
Link to Jamie Ford's Website

Other books by Jamie Ford at BookBrowse
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet jacket
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