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Readers' Comments for Songs of Willow Frost

In August, a select group of readers who participated in one of our Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight promotions won copies of SONGS OF WILLOW FROST by Jamie Ford. It’s the story of 12-year-old William Eng, who 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, and sets off to reconnect with her. Take a look at some of the readers' comments to give you more insight into this heart wrenching story about love, loss and hope --- and make sure to watch out for SPOILERS!

Just finished reading my copy and loved it. It is a story of both hope and promise and suffering and sacrifice. Jamie Ford’s writing is just as powerful as Amy Tan’s. I loved the history of Chinatown and the movie industry. I will definitely pass this book on.

For those of you who enjoyed HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET you are now in for another treat --- Mr. Ford's newest novel SONGS OF WILLOW FROST.

This is a heartfelt story taking place during the depression-era in Seattle, Washington. During that time the economic and social class behaviors were very defined. Prejudices against others, particularly the Chinese living in Seattle, were prevalent, and the new social ways and acceptance of those ways were frightening to many of the Chinese traditionalists.

Against this background is the moving story of William, placed in an orphanage as a young boy after being abandoned by his mother under dire circumstances. His search for his mother, her story and the friends and foes relevant to both William and his mother's lives helps to make this a story rich in emotions --- despair, hope and, finally, forgiveness and acceptance.

Mr. Ford writes so honestly and descriptively that the characters appear real enough that I could actually see them. I could also see the beautiful movie theaters as well and smell the horrible smells that were described in some locations.

I would recommend this book for all book lovers. There is much to learn about that era in history and there are many different aspects to discuss.

Thank you for the joy of reading the fantastic book SONGS OF WILLOW FROST.   

I was taken in by this boy's journey to find his mother, the heartbreak, the hope and the tragedy. Jamie Ford sure knows how to wheel you in from the very first page with the orphanage.  

I am going to share this book with my mother --- she loves stories that have a journey that the main character has to take in order to grow. I also think she will love to read the mother's voice just as much as I did.

It was a joy to read this book.

SONGS OF WILLOW FROST is the poignant story of William Eng, a Chinese American orphan, who longs for his Ah-ma and holds on to hope against hope that she is still alive. The novel unfolds through the eyes of William, as well as flashbacks through the eyes of Liu Song, William's mother.  Character driven, you feel the heartache and desperation that inhibits Depression-era Seattle and its inhabitants: the orphans at Sacred Hearts, Sister Briganti, Liu Song, the good and the not-so-good people of Seattle. It is a difficult era, which is powerfully described; yet, there is an interwoven thread of hope, love, forgiveness and belief throughout the pages. I was emotionally exhausted when I finished reading. I'll be gladly sharing this book with friends who love to read.

I can’t believe that this is only Jamie Ford’s second novel. I loved HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, and SONGS OF WILLOW FROST will be another that book clubs will want to discuss. SONGS OF WILLOW FROST will educate you about life during the Great Depression in Seattle, and the sacrifices that were made by families to survive during this period in history. The story will grab you right away, and you will be right there with William as he goes in search of his mother. William never lets go of hope and promise. I would give this book five stars.

Thank you so much for the copy of SONGS OF WILLOW FROST. I absolutely loved the book. I was sucked in from the first page and would have finished it in a day if I hadn't had to work! As I got into the book, I was afraid William and Charlotte would escape the orphanage only to wander around Seattle for a long while or they would meet Willow and she would deny that she was his mother. I was so happy neither of those things happened. The story and characters were so well developed I could picture everything while I was reading. When I was nearing the end of the book, I slowed my pace a bit because I didn't want the book to end.

I think women would enjoy this read more than men, but I think plenty of men would enjoy it as well. I also think people familiar with the area and time period would like it.

I absolutely loved the book, which isn't much of a surprise since I loved HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET as well.

I am definitely recommending this to my mother and sister, as well as to the Goodreads community when I post my review there.

The story was touching and sad all while maintaining a theme of hope and forgiveness. I didn't want it to end.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to read SONGS OF WILLOW FROSTby Jamie Ford. I would highly recommend this book to my reader friends. SONGS OF WILLOW FROST not only tells a story of a mother and her young son, but also gives insight into Chinese culture, as well as how 1920-1930s American society viewed and treated Chinese Americans --- especially the women and children. The author's ability to create vivid scenes with his words, at times, left me having to tell myself to breathe.  

This is a story of two tales --- Willow, a mother's, and William, her young son's; it is set in Seattle, during the Depression. Although the story moves back and forth between timeframes, the transitions are easy to follow. This story tells of the difficult life situations Willow faces, her ensuing heartrending choices, and the consequences of those choices for her son, William. It is a story of love, determination and triumph of the human spirit.

The following is my review of the book I recently won from, SONGS OF WILLOW FROST by Jamie Ford.

Ford's second work of fiction begins with the story of William Eng, a 12-year old doing his best to deal with life in a Washington orphanage in 1934. Believing his parents to be dead, he is stunned to see a familiar-looking Chinese-American actress in a film he attends on a rare outing --- is his mother alive after all?

From there the story splits into two parts --- William's quest to meet Willow Frost in person to determine whether she really is his mother, and Willow's experiences in the early 1920s, told in flashbacks, that include abject tragedy, modest success and, ultimately, a career in the cinema.

The author is particularly successful in creating William's life in the orphanage --- from the necessity of avoiding dead weevils in the porridge to an affecting friendship with a blind schoolmate to a headmistress who is simultaneously stereotypical and surprising. Although I sometimes felt William was painted as a bit too mature for his 12 years, I rooted for him and kept turning the pages. The portrayal of Willow felt less realistic, but her drama still kept the story moving.

SONGS OF WILLOW FROST is a quick read by a talented author, and well worth investigating.

This book concerns the life of a mother and son who are together for a few years. The mother, after a while, is desperate to earn a living to support herself and her son and through circumstances that arise has to put him in an orphanage because she can no longer take care of him. The story goes on to tell how the child fares in the orphanage --- always thinking of his mother, who he thinks is dead. He then sees a movie with a movie star who he thinks is his mother and proceeds to find out if she really is his mother.

I would recommend the book to other adults. I myself found HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET much more enjoyable.

I would give this book three stars.

I was so excited to receive SONGS OF WILLOW FROST because I absolutely loved Jamie Ford's first book, THE HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET. This book is about 12-year-old William Eng, who, in 1934, has been at the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Seattle for the last five years. He feels that his mother is still alive and will eventually claim him. When he sees the Chinese actress, Willow Frost, on the movie screen, he is convinced that she is his mother and if he could meet with her, then they would be a family once again.

While I liked this book, I felt it was not as good as Ford's first novel. The three main characters were likable and all had unpleasant things and tragedies befall them, but I still didn't feel much of a connection with them. I did like the honest way the despicable conditions that orphans, unwed mothers, and the Chinese had to endure was presented.

I think that this is a worthwhile book to read. I felt that the Author's Note in the back of the book made the book more meaningful, and, perhaps, had I read that first, I would have found the book more enjoyable.

Donna --- This comment contains SPOILERS.
I have read both novels Jamie Ford has written, and I enjoyed his unique perspective on the Chinese community in the Pacific Northwest during the years leading up to and including World War II told through the eyes of children. While I found HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET charming, SONGS OF WILLOW FROSTleft me depressed.

I rooted and mourned for Liu Song, alone, abused and so brave and dignified, and railed against society’s patriarchal ignorance. Children were treated as possessions to be tolerated, not innocent victims of their parents’ circumstances and decisions. Law and culture insisted that Charlotte return to her father, even though he sexually abused her, and that William be torn from his mother because she was unmarried. Everyone judged, but no one helped. Was Mr. Butterfield really so naïve and brainless to think this innocent girl suddenly living alone with her “uncle” became pregnant by some unknown “lover?” After using her talents for years, he closed his store and left without a second thought to the consequences for this single mother and her young son?

Willow tried to protect first her mother, then her son, against Uncle Leo’s abuses, even going so far as to give William over to an orphanage, but society’s heartless, sanctimonious mores fought her all the way. The social worker, Mrs. Peterson, had long before lost any compassion that might have initially led to her career. Sister Briganti treated the children harshly, only allowing the kindness she’d suppressed so long come to the surface after Charlotte’s suicide. (Considering she took her own life, I was surprised that the church allowed Charlotte to be buried in their cemetery. Possibly another kindness?)

I am one of those voracious readers who reread favorite books over and over again. I don’t believe I will do that with this novel. If Mr. Ford’s intention was to have the reader feel drained and depressed after turning the last page, he achieved his goal. I realize Willow and William’s lives were ones of sadness, but SONGS OF WILLOW FROST left me feeling I’d just witnessed a tragic car accident where no one stopped to help the dying.

I can't say I enjoyed this book at all --- it was way too depressing and sad. It showed a lot of culture differences, choices of life and just bad decisions by people who needed more hope and help way before they got to where they were. At first I was confused by all the jumping back and forth between decades...I also felt sorry for the girl, but got really tired of her. Was also very disappointed in the orphanage, as they didn't really seem to care for the kids they were in charge of or really do anything to help them mature into better people then they were. The social worker was of no help also...The whole book way too depressing. And EVERYONE at one time or another is a prisoner in the life they chose or the life they live. I feel sorry for William as with no training and no real goals about all he can do is find a meaningless job somewhere and hopefully take care of his mother as she ages.

I guess I would recommend this book to English classes, or maybe women book clubs.

I am very sorry to have to tell you that I did not like this book, although I did finish reading to the end. This authors' first book HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET had me entranced from the very first page and I was watching for his next book, only to be terribly disappointed. I'm not sure why it just did not click with me; it did seem to be repetitive, not doing justice to Williams' story. I will share the book with another reader and get her take on it. Thank you as always for the opportunity to read an advance copy.

SONGS OF WILLOW FROST by Jamie Ford was pretty good, but I do not know of any of my friends and family who would enjoy this.

It is just so slow going. It takes a while to get through it and almost everyone I know who reads wants a book that keeps them entertained.