Songs of Willow Frost is the much-anticipated second novel by Jamie Ford. I loved his first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, so was excited to see Songs waiting for me. Several reviews I read said it was tinged with sadness, and I wasn’t sure I wanted sadness for my next read. I thought I would just try a few pages…and I was immediately hooked. Songs is the story of young William Eng, a 12-year-old boy living in the 1930s in a Seattle orphanage run by nuns. His companion is Charlotte, a sensitive and kind girl who is blind. All of the boys celebrate their birthday on the same day with an annual trip to town for a movie. At the movie, William sees a poster for Willow Frost, who he believes is his mother. He becomes determined to run away from the orphanage to meet her at one of her performances. When he confides this to Charlotte, she encourages him and runs away with him. Willow is William’s mother. When she was a child, her name was Liu Song. Her father died, and her mother remarried so they could survive in Seattle. Her mother became ill and died, and Liu Song’s step father became even more abhorrent.
Songs alternates between William and Willow’s point of view, telling the story of how William came to end up at the orphanage and how Liu Song became Willow Frost. While it is tinged with sadness and melancholy, it is at the same time a gripping and tender story, with a few surprises. The harshness and misfortune, while necessary to the story, is thankfully not overly graphic.
I highly recommend Songs of Willow Frost. It is an excellent second novel, and one of the best books I’ve read this year.
The Falmouth Memorial Library owns a copy of Songs of Willow Frost.