Songs of Willow Frost
Photo by Laurence Kim
More than a million readers have fallen in love with Jamie Ford’s New York Times bestselling debut novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (2009)—“a wartime-era Chinese-Japanese variation on Romeo and Juliet”.
This fall, Ballantine will publish Ford’s highly anticipated second novel SONGS OF WILLOW FROST, which is both an Indie Next pick and an inaugural LibraryReads pick for the month of September. This evocative mother-son story about love, loss, hope, and the power of forgiveness takes place in 1920s and Depression-era Seattle and touches on the role of Washington and of Asian-Americans in the nascent American film industry.
We caught up with Jamie on the Dallas stop of his 20-city book tour. In this vieo interview, he talked to Authorink about how his mother and Chinese grandparents inspired the book and how the work took shape from only 12 hastily-written pages. He also reveals how he he taught himself to write, though his degree is in art and design, and shares how he strives to make his stories feel real and true.
As SONGS OF WILLOW opens, Chinese-American orphan William Eng visits Seattle’s Moore Theater and is spellbound by an actress who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Convinced that she is his long-lost mother Liu Song, William embarks on a journey to meet her—unraveling not only the secrets of his own past, but those of the enigmatic screen icon she has become.
The novel delves into the intricate relationship between mother and son, and gives insight into the role of orphanages during the Great Depression (the historic Sacred Heart Orphanage featured in the book still stands today and once housed Wallace Stegner among others). It also addresses the challenges in balancing Chinese and American culture, identity and expectation.·
As Helen Simonson (Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand) declares, “I could not turn away from the haunting story or the stunning historical details that bring Depression-era Seattle to cinematic life. Jamie Ford has a laser eye for the small details that define cultures. But it is his boundless compassion for the human spirit, in all its strengths and weaknesses, that makes him one of our most unique and compelling storytellers.”
Advance Praise for SONGS OF WILLOW FROST
“With vivid detail, Jamie Ford brings to life Seattle’s Chinatown during the Depression, and chronicles the high price those desperate times exacted from an orphaned boy and the woman he believes is his mother. Songs of Willow Frost is about innocence and the loss of it, about longing, about the power of remembered love.”
—Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank
“Jamie Ford is a first-rate novelist whose first book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was a joy to read. He tells a brilliant story with a prose that is both concise and lovely. With his new book he takes a great leap forward and has the uncanny ability to move me to tears.”
—Pat Conroy, New York Times bestselling author of South of Broad
“A beautifully told story of an orphan boy’s courageous quest to find his mother. But more than that, it is a story about the universal quest for love, forgiveness, belonging, and family. Tender, powerful, and deeply satisfying, I was emotionally hooked on every page. If you liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,
you’re going to love Songs of Willow Frost.”
—Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice and Love Anthony
Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which won the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and has been translated into 32 languages. Having grown up near Seattle’s Chinatown, Ford now lives in Montana with his wife and children.