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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
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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About this book

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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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.

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.

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.

Linda J. (Manchester, MO)

Songs of Willow Frost
Hard to Put This Book Down!

William Eng's last memory of his mother was seeing her taken from their apartment after he found her unconscious in the bathtub. He was five years old, and was spirited away to Sacred Heart Orphanage where now, at the age of 12, he has never given up hope of finding her.
Set in Seattle, WA during the depression years, "Songs of Willow Frost" by Jamie Ford, tells the poignant story of 12-year old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy whose last memory of his mother was when he was five years old and found her semi-conscious in their bathtub. She was taken to the hospital and he was spirited away to Sacred Heart Orphanage where he has never given up hope of finding her again.
On an outing to a movie theater, Eng believes that moment has occurred when he sees the woman he believes to be his mother singing on the screen. Her name had been Liu Song. Now, she is Willow Frost.
He sees where she will be performing live and decides to run away from the orphanage and go to her. His friend, Charlotte, a blind girl at the orphanage, wants to go with him, and together, they sneak out and make their way to downtown Seattle, teeming with unrest because of the depression.
Ford weaves Liu Song's back story into William's present day life with vivid descriptions of Chinatown and Chinese traditions.
With the first sentence, "William Eng woke to the sound of a snapping leather belt and the shrieking of rusty springs that supported the threadbare mattress of his army surplus bed," he draws readers in and never lets them down.
The theme of a parent separated from his or her son or daughter could easily become maudlin, but Ford never lets this happen. He strikes the right balance, while never tipping his hand as to how their story ends.

Lesley M. (Mesa, AZ)

Songs of Willow Frost
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Songs of Willow Frost. The book is narrated by William Eng, a Chinese American boy in an orphanage in WA. He is on a quest to find his mother and discover why she gave him up. As the story is told, the characters come alive and I felt sad, empathy and hope for William and his mother Willow Frost.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in character development or stories featuring mother/child relationships.

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.

...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

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