Title: Songs of Willow Frost
Author: Jamie Ford
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher for a tour with TLC Book Tours
First 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.
Goodreads 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 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 his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates 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.
Songs of Willow Frost has been one of my most anticipated books for what seems like forever. I read Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet back in 2010, and absolutely fell in love with it. There was so much to adore: the setting in Seattle, which to me, a lifelong Washingtonian, was eminently familiar; the World War II history; the gentle love story; and characters I simply fell in love with. I could not wait to read what Ford came up with next.
So, I waited.
And there were announcements of next books, and delays, and changed plans. And, finally…
…he released Songs of Willow Frost. And I was excited and scared, that combination of feelings that is completely familiar to book lovers. I couldn’t wait to read it, but was apprehensive that the long, long wait, combined with my unreserved passion for his first book, had set me up to be disappointed.
I am so glad to tell you that my fears were completely unfounded.
Ford has done it again, giving me another look at Seattle’s history, along with a completely different kind of love story. William’s story is entwined with that of his mother’s, a story that vividly and heart-breakingly depicts the status of a young Chinese woman in early 20th century America. As the stories draw to a close and come together, the author gives his readers a realistic and completely satisfying ending.
I unreservedly recommend Songs of Willow Frost to lovers of historical fiction and literary fiction. I only hope that we don’t have to wait as long for Jamie Ford’s third book.