Reviews for Songs of Willow Frost


Booklist Reviews 2013 September #2
Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, 2009) tells another dual-thread story in his second novel. William Eng, a 12-year-old resident of the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Depression-era Seattle, has vivid memories of his ah-ma, whom he hasn't seen since he was placed in the sisters' care five years ago. On a rare school trip, William is sure he recognizes his mother in a film advertisement as the ingenue Willow Frost, and he vows to find her to make sense of his abandonment. Willow's backstory then unfolds in dated chapters before William's birth. The newly orphaned, American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants learns quickly that her family's tradition is tragic, both as performers on the stage and as second-class citizens at sea between the culture they've defied by leaving and the one in which they live, rapidly changing yet not fully accepting. As characters, Willow and William are amalgamations who allow for deep discussions of forgotten taboos, and Ford's research, sparing no despairing detail, lends a vivid sense of time and place. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 May #1
William awakens to yet another morning of beatings for bed-wetters at the Sacred Heart orphanage. In 1931, lots of children have been orphaned or left with the sisters because their parents could not care for them. William has little hope, but today is his birthday. More precisely, today is every boy's birthday, since the sisters find it more convenient to celebrate them all on September 28, Pope Leo XII's own birthday. As is custom, each boy is given a sort of present, either a letter from home, kept back for this very occasion, or in William's case, more information about his mother. His last memory is of finding her in the bathtub, her fingertips dripping water onto the floor, the bathwater draining away strangely pink. On this, his 12th birthday, Sister Angelini reveals that doctors refused to treat his mother--because she was Chinese and because she had a shady reputation--so she was taken to a sanitarium. William, confused by the news, joins the other boys on a trip to the theater. Just before the movie begins, a beautiful woman appears on screen, crooning in dulcet tones. William is stunned to realize that this Chinese woman looks exactly like his mother. Soon, William and his best friend, Charlotte (who is blind and determined never to return to her father), concoct a plan to escape the orphanage and find the mysterious singer named Willow Frost. Willow has her own sad tale, replete with sexism, abuse and broken promises. Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, 2009) writes of American life in the 1920s and '30s, bustling with go-getters and burdened with trampled masses. Often muted and simplified, his prose underscores the emotional depression of his main characters; yet that same flatness tethers the tale, inhibiting lyricism. A heartbreaking yet subdued story. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 April #2

Readers who pushed sales of Ford's affecting Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to 1.3 million copies (and counting) will rejoice in this follow-up. On a birthday outing, William Eng, a Chinese American boy living at Seattle's Sacred Heart Orphanage during the Depression, sees actress Willow Frost onscreen and is convinced that she is his mother. With a 12- to 15-city tour.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 September #1

In his mega-best-selling debut, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Ford depicted a star-crossed romance during the fateful years of World War II. His new work depicts another star-crossed romance, but the real love here is between mother and son. On a movie outing, William Eng, a Chinese American boy at the repressive Sacred Heart Orphanage in 1930s Seattle, sees the beautiful actress Willow Frost on-screen and is convinced that she is his mother. Later, with close friend Charlotte, he breaks out of the orphanage (in a bookmobile, no less) to hunt for Willow. He finds her quickly (an interesting twist, as one initially expects the novel to focus on William's journey), then hears her plaintive tale of actor parents lost early, an abusive stepfather, and love for a young Chinese man who seems on the verge of rescuing her. Then, as the narrative cuts between William's confused reactions and the remainder of Willow's story, both William and the reader come to realize what Willow has done to protect her son. VERDICT Writing in simple, unaffected language befitting both William and the young Willow, Ford delivers a tale his fans will certainly relish. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

[Page 98]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 October #2

In his sophomore novel, Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) relies on one of literature's most familiar scenarios: the young orphan embroiled in tragedy. William Eng has occupied a Catholic orphanage in Depression-era Seattle for five years when, in an outstanding coincidence, he learns of his now-famous mother's upcoming local show, and so begins the painful quest to reconnect with the woman who put him up for adoption. From the wicked stepfather's predilections to William's anguished friend Charlotte, the tragedy in this story is largely predictable. It's hard to get a feel for the character of the mother--Liu Song/Willow Frost; the plot hinges repeatedly on her view that she cannot trust honorable people who care for her with the truth. Other characters sound alike--detached and cleanly contemplative. Straining against the heavy-handed symbolism--the gateway-to-salvation rosary, the blind girl ripping off a teddy bear's eyes--and moments of true sentiment sacrificed to convenient/clever phrasing, there are sections that glow. When the sheet music store where Willow first gained notoriety loses its footing as society embraces radio, the story opens up to more natural turns. On whole, Ford's second literary visit to Seattle's Chinatown, though quick-moving and occasionally warmhearted, is little more than a contrived evocation of the darkest element of fairytales and classics. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

In his sophomore novel, Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) relies on one of literature's most familiar scenarios: the young orphan embroiled in tragedy. William Eng has occupied a Catholic orphanage in Depression-era Seattle for five years when, in an outstanding coincidence, he learns of his now-famous mother's upcoming local show, and so begins the painful quest to reconnect with the woman who put him up for adoption. From the wicked stepfather's predilections to William's anguished friend Charlotte, the tragedy in this story is largely predictable. It's hard to get a feel for the character of the mother--Liu Song/Willow Frost; the plot hinges repeatedly on her view that she cannot trust honorable people who care for her with the truth. Other characters sound alike--detached and cleanly contemplative. Straining against the heavy-handed symbolism--the gateway-to-salvation rosary, the blind girl ripping off a teddy bear's eyes--and moments of true sentiment sacrificed to convenient/clever phrasing, there are sections that glow. When the sheet music store where Willow first gained notoriety loses its footing as society embraces radio, the story opens up to more natural turns. On whole, Ford's second literary visit to Seattle's Chinatown, though quick-moving and occasionally warmhearted, is little more than a contrived evocation of the darkest element of fairytales and classics. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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