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Book review: 'Songs of Willow Frost' shares stories of immigrant mother, son

By Micah Klug

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Jan. 4 2014 3:15 p.m. MST

"SONGS OF WILLOW FROST," by Jamie Ford, Ballantine Books, $26, 330 pages (f)

“Songs of Willow Frost” intertwines two stories, one of a mother and one of her son, in a tale of seeking forgiveness, searching for answers and self-discovery. It's set during the Depression era in Seattle and begins with a 12-year-old Chinese-American boy living at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage.

Abandoned by his mother at a young age, William Eng is filled with unanswered questions and fragmented memories. The nuns take the children to the historic Moore Theatre, where William watches an exotic actress on the silver screen named Willow Frost. He becomes convinced Willow Frost is his mother, Liu Song.

William runs away from the orphanage in search of her. When he finds her, Willow affirms his notions of her being his mother. She then explains to William her life, her story and why she gave him away. She also answers his question of who his father is.

Her story includes being sexually assaulted by her mother’s second husband, Leo Eng, after her mother’s death. This man later hires Willow to become his sing-song girl as he later discovers he is the father to her son, William. She agrees to live with Eng in order to feed and clothe her son.

The novel contains mature content that spans the entire storyline. Topics include the nuns' discipline of the orphans, including tying up and whipping orphans who wet the bed. Pregnancy and abortion, gambling, exotic dancing, alcoholism, racial comments and slurs, sexual innuendos, mild swearing, prostitution and the suicide of one of William's friends at the orphanage are also discussed and detailed.

Jamie Ford is the author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.” His book “Songs of Willow Frost” is his second novel. He currently resides in Montana with his wife and children.

If you go ...

What: Jamie Ford book signing

When: Friday, Jan. 10, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, www.jamieford.com

Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.

Also ...

What: Jamie Ford at the Family Literacy Symposium

When: Saturday, Jan. 11, author brunch with Jamie Ford, 10 a.m.; keynote address, noon; panel discussion, 3:10 p.m.

Where: Provo City Library, 550 N. University Ave., Provo

Web: www.provolibrary.com/family-literacy-symposium; www.jamieford.com

Notes: Symposium also includes break-out sessions from 1-3 p.m. with the library staff

Tickets: Free tickets to the symposium are available at the adult reference desk; tickets for the author brunch are $25 and include a signed book

Micah Klug graduated with a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She currently resides in Rexburg, Idaho.

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