I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, 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, Liu Song. (source)
This book was so good! I flew through it, though it doesn't look that way if you look at the dates that I read it. It took me about a week from start to finish, but that was because I was in Florida on vacation with my fiance's family for several days to celebrate Easter, and I didn't want to bring this book with me since it's a library book. But when I was at home and able to read it, I devoured it. Thanks to my friend Beth for her awesome recommendation! She always recommends good books :)
I really enjoyed Ford's writing style. It was easy to get lost in his characters' world, which took place in 1920s and 1930s era Seattle. While I didn't find the book challenging to read at all, it wasn't insultingly easy, either - a nice balance that is typical of adult fiction.
The story was so sad. It was as though every time things were looking up for one of the characters, something bad happened. And Charlotte - I'm still sad about the ending of her story. I was happy with the way that Ford chose to close the novel. He leaves the reader thinking that things are finally really going to improve for Willow and William, but he also leaves things very open ended. There are a million things that could go wrong for them, but it's also entirely possible that they could finally find happiness. Personally, I'm going to choose to believe that they finally are permanently reunited and they finally are able to live happily together.
I also thought that it was really cool that Ford chose to focus on a Chinese American family. Ford himself is Chinese American, and that probably played a big role in why he chose these subjects. I think that Asian Americans are a demographic that is rarely written about in American literature, especially historical fiction, and I was really interested in the cultural aspects of this book.
One thing that I do think that Ford could have improved was his development of William. Willow was so intricate and she had so many different sides to her, but William was just sort of there. I recognize that he's meant as the lens through which we view Willow for the "present day" part of the story, but he's also one of the main characters and, in my opinion, there should have been more depth to him. Even his friend Charlotte was more developed than he was, and she didn't even play a huge role in the story.
While I would not recommend this book to anyone who is looking for any sort of comedy, Songs of Willow Frost is a well-written book that readers can lose themselves in. If you cry easily, you probably will at some point while reading this one (I didn't, but I don't cry easily, haha). I recommend this to any fans of historical fiction, especially those who are interested in reading about Chinese Americans. While the book doesn't focus on any major events in Chinese American history, I felt that it portrayed the culture well. Very happy with this very sad story!