• Songs of Willow Frost

  • A Novel
  • By: Jamie Ford
  • Narrated by: Ryan Gesell
  • Length: 12 hrs and 41 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (259 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From Jamie Ford, the New York Times best-selling author of the beloved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, comes a much-anticipated second novel. Set against the backdrop of Depression-era Seattle, Songs of Willow Frost is a powerful tale of two souls - a boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past - both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness.

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.

Determined to find Willow and prove that his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigate the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.

Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes listeners on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.

©2013 Jamie Ford (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Ford is a first-rate novelist whose best-selling debut, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was a joy to read. With his new book, he takes a great leap forward and demonstrates the uncanny ability to move me to tears." (Pat Conroy, author of South of Broad
"This is a tender, powerful, and deeply satisfying story about the universal quest for love, forgiveness, belonging, and family. If you liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, you’re going to love Songs of Willow Frost." (Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice)

What listeners say about Songs of Willow Frost

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Chinese Way in the U S of A

This second book from Jamie Ford, who also wrote "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet", is set in Seattle, as his first book is. It is a beautiful, yet sad story that takes place beginning in the early 1920's. I love historical fiction. It never ceases to amaze me that in a nation (America) where we have prided ourselves on freedom, that there was really little "freedom" for some folks . . . even those born on American soil. Less than a century ago, our government turned it's back and turned a blind eye to the welfare of children just because they happened to be (in this case) Chinese. And the abuse of the Chinese men of their own wives and children and their expectation that a woman should accept this abuse without complaint, just turns my stomach. Yet, rarely we saw a man, a husband and father of true character . . . one that inspires his family, long after his death. And a woman, who is allowed to dream and grow, while remaining Chinese. What women of that era were forced to do for love, well, it just blows my mind . . . and women from a foreign culture were bound by an iron clad tradition . . . their marriages were arranged by their parents. More than anything, this is a human story of a very young Chinese girl, who lost both parents, endured horrible abuse by her step-father, and then bore the shame that he caused. Still she fought for her child, gave up every shred of humility, and ultimately did what she had to do in order to protect him from the horror that she had to endure as a child.

7 people found this helpful

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Wanted to enjoy it more than I did

Let me start out by saying that I really enjoyed Hotel on Bitter and Sweet and was looking forward to this book.

The story never grabbed me at the start. The plot is pretty much set out for you at the very beginning so there are no surprises. That would be ok if the story was rich in character development or setting description. Having just visited Seattle, I was looking forward to hearing about the setting back in the depression era, but there was not enough setting description given for me. i always love books where the descriptions are enough to make me feel like i am there and this one did not do that. The story picked up a little mid way, but slowed down again toward the finish.

The author alternates the story of William and Willow's life interspersed with minor characters who I felt could have added a richness to the story. My favorite character was Charlotte, William's blind friend from the orphanage. But I was left wanting more. I understood her story, but felt that it could have continued throughout the book versus wrapping up earlier.

I felt in many ways that the story was superficial. There was no in depth effort given to the plot, characters, or setting. Seattle's gloomy weather could have added so much more to the story and a greater development of some of the minor characters again would have helped.

The narration was average and did not distract from the book. Overall, I would give it a 2.5.

7 people found this helpful

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Fantastic Read!

Would you consider the audio edition of Songs of Willow Frost to be better than the print version?

I'm blind. What do I know about the print version?

What was one of the most memorable moments of Songs of Willow Frost?

When William buried the paper and photo.

Have you listened to any of Ryan Gesell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Always good.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Beautiful and sensitive.

Any additional comments?

Jamie Ford is one of the finest authors I've run across in a long time. I thought "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" was a masterpiece, but this is even better.

By the way, I think your questions are dumb.

5 people found this helpful

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Interesting era

What made the experience of listening to Songs of Willow Frost the most enjoyable?

What made the experience so enjoyable was the narration in various voices. It made it sound like the main character was rebelling his life story to me.

What other book might you compare Songs of Willow Frost to and why?

None that I had read yet.

What about Ryan Gesell’s performance did you like?

Phew made it easy to listen to and feel involved.

Any additional comments?

This story was very interesting and I would,recommend it to everyone.

1 person found this helpful

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Enjoyable

I really enjoyed this story of William, a Chinese-American orphan in Seattle and his memories of his mother and search for her. The descriptions of the city and the time period appear to be well researched and though out. The story may be a bit predictable at times, but there are still a few surprises. It's not as strong of a story as Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but it comes in a close second and is worth the read/listen.

1 person found this helpful

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Charming but not "Hotel on the corner "

What did you love best about Songs of Willow Frost?

I felt that the narrator was excellent. I enjoyed the way the story wove back and forth through time allowing the reader to put the past present and future into some sort of order.
I felt that William was a delightful character.

What other book might you compare Songs of Willow Frost to and why?

This book reminded me a little bit of Janet See's books, giving us a glimpse into the life of Chinese families and Chinese culture.

What about Ryan Gesell’s performance did you like?

I felt that the demarkation of the voices was very good and it was clear who was talking at all times.

Who was the most memorable character of Songs of Willow Frost and why?

I would have to say that Wiliam was the most memorable character, overcoming all odds to reunite himself with his lost mother.

Any additional comments?

Definitely worth reading. But it is not Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

1 person found this helpful

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Depressing but well-done

Songs of Willow Frost takes us back and forth in time as memories of Willow's earlier years come to surface. The book is extremely well written and the characters are multi-dimensional, but it is sad. Very, very sad. Downright depressing.

The narration was excellent. If you enjoy a book that pulls you in, that clings to your emotions, that makes your heart sink and your tears on the edge of your eyelid waiting to brim over, you will enjoy this book. For me, although it was an excellent thought-provoking novel, it was depressing. It left me sad. Mainly because I know these injustices existed during this time period.

Although as a society we still have a long way to go, this book helps us to realize just how far we have come.

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Good story

I have mixed feelings about this book. I loved it in the beginng, struggled thru the middle, and ended up liking it again at the end. Perhaps if the narrator was not so melancholy it might have been better.

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wonderful storytelling

wonderful storytelling should be made into a movie for TV or movie theaters I love the ending it made me cry

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Truly wonderful, thoughtful and well researched

Where does Songs of Willow Frost rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of my favorite fiction books. I kept going back over and over to listen so I would not miss anything

What did you like best about this story?

The heartfelt human story that was so well researched and presented from the mother's view as well as the young boy's view, I was captive to the story.

Which scene was your favorite?

If I told you I would ruin the story for everyone.

If you could take any character from Songs of Willow Frost out to dinner, who would it be and why?

William. I would want to find out what happens to him. How he matured. What he is doing as an adult.

Any additional comments?

Read it at your leisure. Savor it.

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