Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, comes a much-anticipated second novel. Set against the backdrop of Depression-era Seattle, Songs of Willow Frost is a powerful tale of two souls—a boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past—both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness.
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.
Determined to find Willow and prove that his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigate the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.
Summary from book, cover art from www.indiebound.org
My Review: William Eng is just one small boy among many children living in an orphanage. He has been told his mother is dead. Being of Chinese decent in the 1930's, he holds little hope for adoption. His life seems to be in a standstill until one day when the boys of the orphanage are treated to the cinema. There on the big screen he sees the woman he believes to be his mother. He knows that he must find her but getting to her won't be easy. This task will require more physical and emotional endurance than should ever be expected of a twelve-year-old boy. The process will tear off scabs only recently healed and produce more scars as well. But William is a stubborn boy and it will take more than a few scrapes and tears to turn him away from what he most desires - his mother.
Willow Frost is the glamorous actress William believes to be his mother. The chance meeting with William changes Willow's life in ways she never expected. Her life has been a complicated one. She has hid secrets from both herself and those she works with for a long time. William draws Willow's darkest memories to the surface. Once again she finds herself at a crossroads, with the most meaningful choice of her life looming ahead.
The story shifts between the present Great Depression years of the 1930's and Willows past in the 1920's. It is a really sad story with only momentary reprieves of happiness. The main conflict begins to resolve itself fairly quickly but the secrets hidden within are revealed slowly throughout the book. William's plight to meet Willow seems to come together a little too easily. But if there is fault to be found in the convenience of the plot it is more than made up for in sentiment. The raw emotion of the characters draws the reader in quickly and latches on tightly. All of the characters, from the most minor to the stars of the book, are beautifully drawn up. Touches of history add to the story line and make it all the more realistic. Once this story begins it consumes all else, being extremely painful to read at times and yet containing a positive undercurrent to keep one moving forward. So much of this book screams glamour (did you see that gorgeous cover?) but the dirtiness of this time period and Willow's secrets powerfully fight back. Perhaps it is this paradox that makes the story work so well, allowing it to weave its way directly into the readers heart.
My Rating: 4 Stars
To sum it up: Another beautifully written story by Jamie Ford, full of emotional secrets and touched with historical fact.