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.
[Continues on Goodreads . . .]
(Synopsis and image from Goodreads)
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Several months ago I read Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (2009). Friends and family members were absolutely enamored of the writing in this book. How could I not look forward to reading Songs of Willow Frost?
I wish I could tell you I enjoyed Songs of Willow Frost as much as my first exposure to Ford’s writing. But I cannot.
The premise is a strong one — the story of a 12-year old Chinese boy placed in an orphanage based in accusations that his mother is unfit to care for him. William believes in the depths of his heart that his mother lives, and that she is the singing sensation, Willow Frost. William’s determination to find her and his commitment to reconnect with his mother is poignant and heart-rending.
Set once again in Seattle, the backdrop is China Town in the 1930s. Times are not easy for anyone, and there is an overwhelming criminal presence and abusive treatment of women both at home and in the workplace. There are scenes I would not consider suitable for young girls.
Even with this premise and the ever-changing daily lives of people during the Great Depression, especially in areas such as Seattle’s China Town, Ford does not deliver a fluid narrative. I found the narrative to be choppy at times and not transitioning well.
The book also lacks clear development of all characters. An example of the poor character development is found in William. At age 12, all too often his speech pattern and language, including his thoughts, do not seem to correspond to his age.
Others reading this book may have enjoyed it and might give it a better review. If I am in the minority and I probably am, I do hope that if you read Songs of Willow Frost, you will find it enjoyable.
My chief concern is whether Ford got caught up with the success of his first novel and rushed too quickly into writing Songs of Willow Frost, thereby relying on characterizations, dialogue and scenes from the first book as a basis for this book.
I encourage you to try Jamie Ford’s Songs of Willow Frost before reading Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I think both books will be more enjoyable to you in this order. If you are interested in Chinese life in American during the 1930s, both books will be of interest to you.
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Meet the Author:
I’m also the New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet—which was, in no particular order, an IndieBound NEXT List Selection, a Borders Original Voices Selection, a Barnes & Noble Book Club Selection, Pennie’s Pick at Costco, a Target Bookmarked Club Pick, and a National Bestseller. It was also named the #1 Book Club Pick for Fall 2009/Winter 2010 by the American Booksellers Association.
In addition, Hotel has been translated into 34 languages. I’m still holding out for Klingon (that’s when you know you’ve made it).
I’m an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp.
My next novel, SONGS OF WILLOW FROST, should be hitting shelves September 10, 2013! And I’m also working on a YA (Young Adult) series that even my agent doesn’t know about…yet.
(Bio and image via Goodreads)
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- SONGS OF WILLOW FROST: Eye Level With A Pair of Hearts (bookpeopleblog.wordpress.com)
- She Is Too Fond of Books ~ the Sunday Coze (wordswewomenwrite.wordpress.com)
- Songs of Willow Frost (Giveaway) (feministtexicanreads.wordpress.com)