Songs of Willow Frost

Songs of Willow Frost

by Jamie Ford
4.3 68


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Songs of Willow Frost: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
Songs of Willow Frost will play on your heart strings. At times heavy and melancholy, at times light and uplifting, it will surely bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your lips. There are two tales here, intricately entwined. The first is the story of an American born Chinese boy, William Eng, just twelve years old. He has spent the last five years in an orphanage in Seattle. His single hope is that his mother will return and take him home. While on a rare outing to the local motion picture theater with the other orphans, William sees a woman on the silver screen who he is convinced is his mother. Her name is Willow Frost. He becomes obsessed with the idea of leaving the orphanage and finding her. The story of Willow Frost is a complicated one. Could this woman who has become a seemingly glamorous motion picture star have been the same young unwed mother who struggled for years against all odds in the close knit Chinese community of Seattle to raise her young son? This highly entertaining book was provided for review by the well read folks at Ballantine Books.
wiseowlMN More than 1 year ago
This book is an historical fiction story that I am sure could absolutely have happened, maybe minus the somewhat happy ending for some of the characters. Thank goodness there was some happiness at the end. Anyone familiar with adoption and history will be able to relate to much of the book, and learn from the story. Important information to know and understand about the time of the Great Depression and such communities like in Seattle at that time. Read Jamie Ford's first book first, though.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
The true treasure of this masterful novel is the atmosphere of the times and cultures of the characters created by Jamie Ford.  Willow tells her story as a first generation American born Chinese living in the mixed cultures of the true Chinese, the new Americanized Chinese and all those non-Chinese people who populate Washington state during the 1920-30's time frame.  That in itself creates a classic tale.  Then add in abuse, lack of real family, and ambitions beyond the traditional role for a young Chinese girl, and feelings become a major character in this story. Willow's son's story is very similar, but so very different.  William was Willow's son, and his story is told from by him as a twelve year old living in an orphanage since he was seven years old.  William thought he had no living parents until he saw his mother on the screen at a birthday outing from the orphanage.  Then he had to find her and learn about who he really was.  Jamie Ford does an expert job of telling this story going from Willow to William and back again.  Their story is so sad that this book could have been just too maudlin to endure, but Ford's skill at invoking just the perfect amount of pathos with strong willed survival and dreams of family love, that my heart and emotions were pulled along by both characters.  Their hopes and dreams became my hopes and dreams.  A must read to help understand a time and culture in America! 
Anne-reads-to-much More than 1 year ago
Enjoying the book so far, the author Jamie Ford , writing is amazing..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though I really enjoyed this book ,it did not come up to expectations. I found "The corner of Bitter and Sweet" much more informative and interesting This book might be a good choice for book clubs.
loloofaz More than 1 year ago
Liked it a lot but his first novel Corner of Bitter and Sweet was much better
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful read - truly bitter sweet - but with a perfect ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont know why all of the lamebrained off topic postings. This book is worthy of better! It is a good read by a great author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wondeful book and very well written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That was so beautiful! It made me cry!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
...I am totally hooked on the book now and upset I am no longer on vacation with as much time to read as I would like. It's a very sad story, however, with lots of harsh realities that some folks may not care for. But the characters are very real to me and I want so much to know what happens to Willow and William at the end. Not a disappointment at all and more than worth giving it time to move a bit.
bongie More than 1 year ago
Well written and this author has a wonderful way of getting you into the story quickly. The main characters are Willow and her son William. I struggled with the last 75 pges as they blurred tog. from going on about Willow's blight. I was glad when it ended. Hope this author writes more books and keeps up his talent as he does a great job of putting his words on paper.a
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good book, but hard for me to really get into. I did love the historical part of the story, and would love to learn more about that time period. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction.
lsmeadows More than 1 year ago
Songs of Willow Frost is the poignant story of 12 year-old orphan William Eng and the beautiful Asian actress, Willow Frost. While on a field trip to the theater from the orphanage where he lives, William is surprised to recognize the famous actress. You see, William knew her when she was just an Asian beauty living in Seattle's Chinatown and going by the name of Lui Song. William becomes convinced that he has to meet Willow, to see if she still recognizes him. When she does, both Willow and William are thrust back into the stories of their past. This book worked for me on several levels. The story flowed well, keeping me interested in the pages to come. Although I liked the part when William was in the orphanage, and I liked this relationship with Charlotte, by far my favorite part of the book was when Willow was telling the story about her life as Lui Song. I thought that her story painted a really good picture of what life would have been like for someone in her position, containing just the right amount of sorrow and depression without being too negative. In addition, I liked the way that her story highlighted the prejudices of the time period, and the strictness of the Asian culture. One of the things that especially spoke to me was the way that William ended up in the orphanage. This book takes place during a time period when many families could not support themselves and resorted to leaving their children in an orphanage. My own grandmother and her brothers and sisters were dropped at an orphanage for that reason. Things were different then, and for some families, this is the only way that they could cope. For that reason, I really appreciated the way that the orphanage in this book was portrayed, and the decisions that Willow had to make regarding William and what was best for both of them. Although the ending of the book was a bit ambiguous, given the history of the time and the culture that William and Willow belonged to, I thought that it fit the story. A lot of people have said that, although they liked this book, it was not as good and Jamie Ford's debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I, myself, have not read that book, so I cannot speak to how this one stacks up, but for me, this book was a beautifully written and wonderful trip into a time and culture that I can only read about. For that reason, I give it 4 stars and would recommend it as a must read book. Thanks to Ballantine Books and Netgalley for making this book available to me in exchange for a review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I greatly enjoyed this book. It tugs at your heart strings the entire time. In fact, it breaks your heart a few times during the story. It also shows how common sense can unfortunately take a back seat to cultural beliefs - you want to just shake some sense into Willow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great choice for our ski trip over Thanksgiving, didn't want to put it down. I really enjoyed it cover to cover as I did "On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet". Looking forward to more stories from this writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a "can't out it down" kind of story. A coming of age tale of a young Chinese boy in the 30s Seattle. The story is told in flashbacks to his mother's story. Compelling, interesting, and well written.
DubaiReader1 More than 1 year ago
Seattle in the early 1900s. This was an interesting view into two eras of American history, as seen from the point of view of an American born Chinese girl and her estranged son. We join the narrative in 1934, as The Depression leaves thousands destitute. Twelve year old William is a resident of Sacred Heart Orphanage, yearning for a mother whom he hasn't seen for five years. As his mother narrates events in 1921, soon after the influenza epidemic, we learn how circumstances shaped her life and that of her son and resulted in their separation. The lowly status of unmarried mothers at that time, especially amongst the Chinese community, along with the disdain shown to actresses and entertainers, leaves Liu Song with few choices. Meanwhile, William yearns for the love and affection of the mother he still vaguely remembers, while living day to day amongst the other orphans of Sacred Heart. The various attitudes of the time were perfectly depicted and I could well imagine life in Seattle during those austere years. However, I was disappointed by the ending, which was unresolved, and by some of the interactions throughout the book, which felt a bit gappy. The character of Colin, Liu Song's beau, underwent a sudden transformation, and something didn't quite work for me between Liu Song, her step father, Leo, and his first wife, Auntie Eng. Having said that, the book provided an interesting book group discussion, unanimously receiving 3.5 out of 5.
TheStephanieLoves More than 1 year ago
Maybe it was his imagination. Or perhaps he was daydreaming once again. But William knew he had to meet [Willow Frost] in person, because he had once known her by another name—he was sure of it. With his next-door neighbors in Chinatown, she went by Liu Song, but he'd simply called her Ah-ma. He had to say those words again. He had to know if she'd hear his voice—if she'd recognize him from five long years away. On an outing to Seattle's Moore Theatre, 12-year-old William Eng—the only Chinese-American orphan at Sacred Heart—is stunned to catch onscreen, the familiar face of well-admired actress and "Oriental beauty," Willow Frost, whom he, five years ago, knew by another name: mother. Songs of Willow Frost is a sensationally crafted novel that follows William's search for his carefully buried roots, spurned by the kind of familial longing only known as a child's unconditional love, and the ghosts and demons of his mother's past that he discovers along the way. The narrative shifts between the Great Depression and the technological revolution of the early 1920s, offering both William's real, raw perspective of Chinese-American life, as well as Liu Song's shining voice—her invaluable song. There are just so many things I loved about this book! It's distressing how I can't list them all off at the same time, but I'll begin with the characters. William's naïveté is tender, and will make your heart ache. At once hopeful and painfully mature, his narrative gives rich glimpses of what it must have been like to be an abandoned child during the Great Depression—who were dubbed "orphans" like he was, and were not at all uncommon during this time—and is so emotionally well rendered. Liu Song is the character who has committed a mother's most atrocious crime by abandoning her child, but once her side of the story is told—and with it, William's mysterious past unraveled—we see nothing but the compromised woman with a crushing sadness, the brave, beautiful performer who sacrificed everything to salvage her son. While William's story is profound, Liu Song's is haunting, debilitating. She is so real and so human; I related to her in so many ways, which is the magic of her complex and alluring characterization in that she is exonerated because we as readers want to forgive her—we want to understand. Ford effectively evokes the glamor of pre-Depression 1921, which enshrouded the magic of theatre and the rise of the radio star, and even transitioning to later years, conveys the grayness of the Great Depression in tandem with the emergence of Hollywood's Golden Era—which is to say, film over theatre, or Willow Frost over Liu Song. I am amazed at how culturally rich and historically vibrant Ford's Seattle Chinatown is; I lived, breathed, and loved these characters and this setting. The story is also extremely stylistically impressive; Ford writes with great sensitivity and deep beauty in the tenderest way that induces shivers and raises goosebumps. In Willow's distraught confession, plea for forgiveness, and imminent personal departure, her past's troubles, her largest of sacrifices, and ultimately, her desire to rise up from cowering behind the façades of both the stage and screen, are intimately, agonizingly revealed... all in order to give everything to the one person she will never cease to love: her son. Pros: Breathtaking historical scenery—colorful and lush descriptions of 1920s- and 30s-era Seattle // William and Willow are gorgeously characterized; both are lovable AND complex // Intriguing story with unique backdrop // Insight into both early 20th-century Chinese culture and Chinese-American expectations // Lovely in style... I could read Jamie Ford's prose forever! // Poignant, heartbreaking // Evocative of a mother's love; well-developed (albeit convoluted) mother-son relationship portrayed Cons: Occasionally, scenes dragged out and grew boring, but this was not that big of a problem for me, and it was mostly just in the beginning Verdict: Lacerating, expressive, and beautifully melancholic, Jamie Ford's long-anticipated second novel unfalteringly trails young William Eng as he determinedly sets out to unearth a slew of family secrets and a home for his perpetually expectant heart. With stunning insight on a desolate, but regardless exquisite mother-child relationship, and magnificent attention to period detail, Songs of Willow Frost is a stirring, tumultuous, and ultimately triumphant story of one mother's struggle to stay afloat under immense societal scrutiny and Chinese-influenced expectation, and how although that survival may become her weakness and her desperation, it will never diminish her overwhelming love. Rating: 9 out of 10 hearts (4 stars): Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf. Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Random House and TLC!)
Anonymous 8 months ago
Saddest book I've ever read, but a great read. Book filled with a lot of tragedy and gives you insight into the Asian American experience in the past. HIghly recommend
DoranneLongPTMS More than 1 year ago
I have been waiting for years, for another novel by Jamie Ford, after reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. In Songs of Willow Frost, we are provided a haunting glimpse into life of the minority poor in the 1920s and 30s. Jamie reminds us we know not why others do what they do, and we might do the same if we were in their shoes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my book club - very dark and drawn out in the beginning but then the story took flight and was interesting and informative about the time period in Seattle for the Chinese population. It is unusual for a male author to write in a woman's voice; it was very interesting. If you are looking for something a little different, not the same old mystery of love story, try this book. It kept my interest until the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chpico More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written story.
KJMassey More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful story by an amazing author who knows how to put this reader into the book with the characters. The people in this story seem so real that I wanted to get to know them better. I hope to read them again in another book. Jamie Ford's research and dedication to present a time and place as realistically as possible (yet leaving room for creativity) are evident in the powerful way that I can "time travel" as I read about this troubled historic era (the Great Depression).