Jamie Ford’s second novel is exactly what you’re hoping to find when you pick up a family saga. It’s what you hope to find, but so seldom do.
Songs of Willow Frost (Ballantine) is a complete and surprising package. The book is polished, the storytelling sound, but there is heart here, as well. And passion. In other words, a balanced parcel in every way and truly one of my top reads of the year.
A Chinese American orphan sees an exotic actress, Willow Frost, at the theatre and feels certain it is his mother, lost to him many years before. He determines to find and confront her: how could she have given him up? What was the story there? The deeper he delves, however, the more starkly he discovers that there is more to that story than initially met the eye.
It’s been four years since the publication of Ford’s debut work, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet but, judging by this new book, it was four years well spent. Ford evokes Depression-era Seattle in all its conflicted nuance with a hand that is both deft and steady. Songs of Willow Frost is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love and loss and the bonds that families create. ◊
Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.