Set during the Great Depression in Seattle, Songs of Willow Frost is the story of William Eng, an American born Chinese boy who has lived in an orphanage for five years. Each year, on their “collective” birthday (ie, the day designated to celebrate all the boys’ birthdays), the boys get an opportunity to attend the cinema and ask about their mother. For William, his twelfth birthday marked the day when both events revealed hints about his past. For up on the screen, in a promotion for a local event, he saw his mother, the star of the silver screen, Willow Frost.
The remainder of the book unravels the story behind how William ended up in the orphanage and the boys natural longing to find his mother in the hopes that he would feel love and security once again.
Jamie Ford is an excellent story-teller, and fans who enjoyed The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet won’t be disappointed. Even more than the story, however, I enjoyed Ford’s excellent revelations about the life of Chinese-Americans during Seattle’s depression era. Chinese traditions. coupled with restrictions resulting from America’s racist attitudes, made life especially difficult for Chinese-American women. Especially women like Willow Song. We often hear of the hardships of the depression, but as difficult as it was for the average white American, immigrants and those of different racial backgrounds had it much worse. These are the stories that are seldom told, and I applaud Ford’s efforts to bring this aspect of history to light.
Many thanks to Ballantine Books for sending me an advance review copy of this novel. It is due to hit the bookshelves on September 10, 2013.
3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2013