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Reviewed by Alisha Churbe
The first word that comes to my head when thinking of Songs of Willow Frost is cute. The main characters, Willow Frost, and 12-year-old William Eng are two of the most likable characters I’ve encountered in literature. But the story, the trials and situations that these two are subjected to is definitely short of cute, and more heart breaking at times. The novel is set in Seattle and I found the descriptions of the time periods and the locations to be mesmerizing. In many parts, I found myself seeing historic Seattle through the characters’ eyes. Ford does a nice job of allowing the setting to have a place in the novel.
The story is told from the perspective of two narrators: Willow Frost (once Liu Song), a famous actress in the 1930s, who tells her story beginning with her childhood in the 1920s. Her story alternates with that of William Eng, a 12-year old Chinese-American orphan who enters the novel and begins his story in the 1930s. He is haunted by memories of his mother and her giving him up years ago. The stories of each of these characters are both heartbreaking and full of hope. No matter what is thrown at the characters, they manage to muddle their way through it somehow, nothing short of amazing in some instances. As William fights to piece together the memories of his mother, the story alternates and begins to tell us the story of Willow’s mysterious past. Her story begins in her own childhood. Both paths start at the beginning of each respective story and ultimately intersect in the mid 1930s Seattle when William sees a picture of Willow Song as is convinced she is his mother.
I’m always interested to read stories of a women’s perspective written by men (and vice versa). Ford does a good job speaking from a woman’s perspective in this novel and I didn’t feel as though there was ever a time when I thought he’d missed the mark. I didn’t feel that any emotion or perspective had been missed. He also does a brilliant job describing the world from William’s perspective. Ford captures the awe of experiencing something new and the ways in which we hide parts of our past from our current lives. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to picking up Ford’s first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.