Title: Songs of Willow Frost
Author: Jamie Ford
Opening line: “…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…”
Blurb: 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 that all the boys have their birthdays – 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.
My Thoughts: SONGS OF WILLOW FROST is one of those rare books that you read slowly because you don’t want to miss a minute!!! It starts in 1934 when the reader is introduced to William before switching back to the 1920s for Willow’s story, the two story lines then switch back and forth before converging for the final part. William lives in an orphanage that is run by nuns – life there is tough – but life outside is tougher. Many of the children have parents who are alive but just can’t, or won’t, care for them. Some of the children don’t want their parents to return as life with them was not good.
‘…“We don’t get to choose our parents,” Sunny said. “If we did, some of us might choose never to be born at all.”…’
On the other hand life for Williams’s mother, Lui Song, was not much better – her mother married a cruel and unforgiving man, Uncle Leo, after her first husband died and for her last few years she was bed-ridden. Lui Song had to care for her mother, look after her ‘Uncle’ and try and keep up with her schooling. Life turns even worse for her after her mother died, and the reader finds out how she became a single mum. Now Lui Song has two people to care for, herself and her son, and while not agreeing with some of her choices it is easy to understand why she did what she did. She felt trapped in her lifestyle with no choices available to her and the knowledge that the grass is not always greener even if she did have better choices.
‘…If there was anything she learned from her mother, it was that cages come in all sizes – some even have white picket fences, four walls, and a front door…’
Hand on my heart I would recommend SONGS OF WILLOW FROST by Jamie Ford. If you loved his first book ‘Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet’ then you are going to love this one too. You will laugh, you will cry, you will hate at least one of the characters, but you won’t put the book down! Hooked from the very first page Ford does not rush his story, but neither does it drag; the pacing, the story, the character development is all spot on. Then on top of that, the insight into the Chinese culture in America along with the history of the post WWI and depression era and start of the movie industry all combine to make this a ripper of a read. I hope there is not a long wait until his next book,
Rating: A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.
For more about the author – Click Here
With thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballentine and the author via Netgalley.