Jamie Ford's debut novel, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was a phenomenal success, topping bestseller list everywhere. (It has been translated into 34 languages!) Ford again revisits history in his second novel, Songs of Willow Frost.
1934 Seattle - The Sacred Heart Orphanage. William Eng is twelve years old. The orphanage celebrates all of the boy's birthdays on the same day. As a special treat, they are allowed to go to a movie. It is there, on the screen, that William sees a beautiful Chinese singer on screen named Willow Frost. He is sure it is his mother. Determined to see if it is the woman of his limited memories, he and his best friend, a young blind girl named Charlotte, run away and wait outside of the theatre where Willow Frost is scheduled to give a live performance.
Ford explores a fascinating time period in Seattle's history - the fledgling movie industry. I went online many times to follow up with settings, references and incidents mentioned throughout the story. But there is an ugly side to this time period as well - the treatment of minorities, by both Chinese and whites. The Roaring Twenties The Depression are also painted vividly. For although many of us are aware of this time period and the troubles, Ford gives us another look - through a different set of eyes.
The stories of both Willow Frost and William are poignant. Willow's tale, the choices she was made and that were made for her were distressing and heartbreaking. As were William's. The details of his life in the orphanage are unsettling. The love the two share for each other is wonderfully depicted. But, I did feel that the negative influences in the book, such as social worker and Uncle Leo were caricatures rather than characters. They served their purpose of being the 'bad guys', but were very one dimensional.
Songs of Willow Frost is a wonderful narrative that explores, love, loss, duty, tradition, hope, redemption and more. Book clubs will find much to discuss with this book. Read an excerpt of Songs of Willow Frost.
Jamie Ford's own description of his writing style says it best...
"My writing career began when I wrote my parent's eulogies. Because of the way my writing career began, I realized that beautiful melancholy will always be my writing partner, and that I will make a living by breaking my own heart on a regular basis." And ours as well.
"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." You can find Jamie Ford on Facebook, on Twitter and on Pinterest.
See what other book bloggers on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. And thanks to the generosity of Ballantine Books, I have a copy of Songs of Willow Frost to giveaway to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US on.y, no PO boxes please. Ends Nov. 3/13