by Jamie Ford
from the back cover
Seattle, 1934: Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. But now William, in a rare visit to the movies, has glimpsed an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that she is his mother. Determined to find her, 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 Willow Frost...a woman whose story is far more complicated than any fantasy portrayed onscreen.
This book will tear your heart into tiny little pieces and then toss them in the air, one at a time, like rose petals, so that each time you think, "but I still have the rest of the pieces here, so it can't be all bad..." until there's nothing left but the tiniest shred of hope, and somehow that's still enough.
While I wasn't a huge fan of the structuring of the novel (not to mention the shredding of my heart), I gained from Songs of Willow Frost a fictional story of a very real place with very real people who may very well have lived parallel lives to those in the book. And that, I think, is very important (apparently I like the word "very" today).
To borrow words from myself in my review of Because We Are: There was no pity, no place for it, only a strong sense of what it is to be human and to live on this earth.