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Songs of Willow Frost    by Jamie Ford order for
Songs of Willow Frost
by Jamie Ford
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2014 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet brings us another heart wrenching historical novel set in Depression-era Seattle, Washington and centered on its Chinese community, in Songs of Willow Frost.

The story alternates between the points of view of a boy, twelve-year-old Chinese American William Eng, being raised in the Sacred Heart Orphanage and the mother, Liu Song, whom he eventually tracks down. It begins in 1934 at the orphanage, where times are very hard, but not perhaps as hard as elsewhere in the city for those without resources.

Today is a birthday celebration - for all the orphans at once. They are taken to the Moore Theatre, where William recognizes one of the performers, a singer named Willow Frost, as the mother he lost five years before. William has friends in the orphanage - part-Cherokee Sunny, but especially blind Charlotte. She believes him when he tells her about Willow Frost.

Together, they escape the orphanage (in a bookmobile, no less) and seek the singer. There's an encounter and an autograph, and Liu Song shares some of her tragic story, including the development of her singing talent, the great love of her life, and William's birth. But then she leaves him again and he's returned to the orphanage.

The orphans dream of family, but it's not always a happy ending when parents come for them, as is Charlotte's case. Her situation leaves William only more determined to be with his mother. He hears even more of her sad story. Can this end well? You must read Songs of Willow Frost to find out but it's well worth your time.

And don't miss the Author's Note at the end, which speaks of how Seattle's fledgling film industry was 'a literal light in the dark' in these very hard times. Jamie Ford brings 'this ramshackle, tar-paper, threadbare landscape' to immediate life in his remarkable novel.

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