Book Review & Giveaway: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Posted October 11, 2013 by LeahAdmin in Reviews / 36 Comments

Book Review: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
Published by Ballantine on Sep. 10, 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher, TLC Book Tours

It’s an exciting day at the Sacred Heart Orphanage; this is the day that all the boys get to celebrate their birthday. To make the day special, the boys are taken to see a movie and given some money to buy themselves a treat. In Depression-era Seattle, this is no small occasion.

At the movie, a beautiful Asian American woman comes onto the screen and 12-year-old William comes to an impossible realization — that this actress, Willow Frost, is his mother. He has dim memories of his mother, who he hasn’t seen in more than five years, since she was carried nearly lifeless from their apartment. He is told by a nun that she entered an asylum and never left, but he is certain Willow Frost is really his mother, Liu Song.

When William finds out Willow  will soon be performing in Seattle, he knows he must find a way to be reunited with her. Clearly, she is successful now and will be overjoyed to have her son back. With his best friend Charlotte, a blind girl who was abandoned by her abusive father, he escapes the orphanage and embarks on a journey across the city to see his mother perform. However, things do not fall into place as he hopes they will when he actually meets Willow. She is indeed Liu, but she has a troubled, complicated past, and being reunited with her son calls forth many memories and emotions.

Interspersed with William’s narrative is the story of Liu’s life growing up in Seattle’s Chinatown, the circumstances surrounding William’s birth, and her struggle to get by and to keep her family together after he is born. She has an absolutely devastating story, and it was really interesting to read about the experience of being an “Oriental” in America during this time period. I was shocked by the amount of racism she encountered and heartbroken by the tragedies she was forced to bear. Her story is marred by the deaths of loved ones, horrible cruelty, rape, and rampant, institutionalized racism — Chinese women couldn’t even be treated in white hospitals.

I loved the setting of this book. Depression-era Seattle is fascinating, and it was especially interesting to read about Chinatown and the experience of Asian immigrants and their children. Ford does an excellent job of evoking the atmosphere of this time and place. The role of film in this novel was also very interesting; it was clear how the burgeoning film industry shone like a beacon of hope for the downtrodden, offering them an escape from the drudgery of their lives.

I thought this was a fantastic book about a mother and a son — their fierce love, separation, and desperate struggle for meaning and acceptance in a world determined to stomp on them. It’s riveting, sad, and beautiful.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

TLC Book Tours


The publishers of this book have kindly offered a copy of Songs of Willow Frost to give away. To enter, click the Rafflecopter link below. Please note that this giveaway is only open to US residents. This giveaway will be open until 12 a.m. October 18.

Click here to enter with Rafflecopter!

  • Andi (Estella’s Revenge)

    I can’t wait to give this one a go. I haven’t read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet yet either even though it’s been on my TBR for years. *fail*

    • Andi!!! It’s a MUST!!! Seriously, a fab book.

    • It’s been on mine forever, too. I’ve got the book on my Nook, even!

    • There are simply too many books out there; it seems impossible to read everything on my TBR! Hope you get to it soon 🙂 It’s on my list now, as well!

  • Yes! Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is on my list too! But I’ve heard good things about this one. Definitely looking forward to it!

    • Leah, I loved this book. Jamie Ford is seriously one of my fav authors. Yay for a giveaway!!! Even though I have a copy, I really want to send one to my mom and/or sister!

    • It seems like everyone has read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet! I’m adding it to my list too 🙂

  • Oooh this one sounds good. Definitely the type of historical fiction I’d be into. Not sure if I’ve ever read anything set in Depression-era Seattle either…unique setting!

    • It was a new setting for me too, and Ford captures it really well. It was fascinating, and I feel like I learned a lot.

  • I LOVED his first book and love the author just because he’s so interactive on Twitter 🙂 This is on my list of books to read and I hope I win! Thanks for the giveaway.

    • Lol he’s retweeted a few of my tweets about this post, so that’s pretty awesome. Good luck!

  • What an interesting time period! Thanks for the great review 🙂

    • I’d never read anything in this setting before, but it was fascinating.

  • This is such a great book! I’m so glad you liked it!

    • Loved it! I need to read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet now 😛

  • Judie McDonald

    I really enjoyed his last book, I’m sure to enjoy this one.

  • 🙂 I’m currently reading this one and am loooving it! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

    • Yay! I couldn’t put it down!

  • Monred

    I was assigned HoTCoBaS in my English class last and didn’t know what to expect but ended up loving it! Definitely in my top five favorite books. I can’t wait to read “Songs of Willow Frost”! Jamie Ford had a Skype session with my class, and it was very intriguing hearing him describe the book. AH.

    • That’s so awesome — sounds like a fantastic English class!

  • I loved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and have Songs of Willow Frost in my stash to read/review. It sounds so poignant and filled with Jamie Ford’s enchanting writing style. Thanks for a great review!

    • I haven’t read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet yet, but now I really want to!

      • A really good book and yes, you should read it. Dropping by this morning from Rebecca’s linky. When I saw Songs of Willow Frost, I immediately thought it was likely you!

        • I love that she’s doing the linky parties! I can’t wait to be introduced to some awesome blogs from it!

  • Wow, sounds like this book is not to be missed!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

    • Absolutely! I’m so glad to have read it 🙂 Thanks for having me on the tour!

  • I’m reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet this month, and I’m really looking forward to reading this one after. It sounds so good.

    • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is definitely on my list after reading this!

  • anne

    This book would be a treasure. Many thanks.

  • This sounds like such a great book! Of course I know that it is, because I’ve only ever seen good reviews. I will consider reading it, Leah, but I think I want to read his other book too. Great review!

    • It seems to be the rare book that gets nothing but good reviews, doesn’t it? I want to read his other book too, now!

  • Pingback: Jamie Ford, author of Songs of Willow Frost, on tour October 2013 | TLC Book Tours()