Monday, September 22, 2014

Two for Two: My Latest Book Recommendation

Given that my time to read has decreased significantly in the past 3.5 years (since the birth of my first child), I am a bit more particular about the books that I pick up these days.  While I like to try new authors, I admit that most of the books I read tend to be books by authors I already know I have liked in the past.  That being said, there are some first novels that I have loved so much that I hesitate for a bit before delving into the second - for fear that it will not be as good and that I will have my love of the author tarnished forever.  It is the reason that I have always been secretly grateful that Harper Lee never followed To Kill a Mockingbird up with anything - it may have just been too much of a disappointment.

This is why I was conflicted when I found out that Jamie Ford had recently published a new novel (well, not that recently, it came out last September, but I'm a bit behind the times these days!).  His first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was absolutely wonderful on every level.  I simply loved it.  And then a couple weeks ago, my mother pointed out to me that he had a new one (this irked me for reasons my blog post on the first reveals).  So, after hemming and hawing a bit, I picked up a copy of Songs of Willow Frost.  Let's just say, I was not disappointed.

Songs of Willow Frost takes place in Seattle and tells the story of 12-year-old William Eng, who has lived at the Sacred Heart Orphanage since his mother was taken away from him five years earlier.  He becomes convinced that an actress he spies on-screen, Willow Frost, is his mother and is determined to track her down and learn the truth about why she abandoned him.

This book is incredibly heartbreaking on so many level.  The narrative switches back and forth between Willow's tragic story, and that of the the children in the orphanage left behind during the Great Depression.  While I was eager to keep reading to find out what happened plot-wise, I was also filled with a sense of dread knowing that there was likely something even more terrible with each turn of the page.  Given this, however, I did not find much about the story exaggerated, just depressing in its reality.  Because I have an often depressing job, I do find that I don't want to spend my time wallowing in tragic stores.  But, I have a soft spot for novels about families, particularly Asian families.  I also love Ford's straight-forward story-telling approach.  Even going between time periods, everything was easy to follow - he just tells a good story without any unnecessary bells and whistles.  It's been awhile since I almost missed my train stop because I was too engrossed in my book, or stayed up far past my bedtime because I wanted to read just one more chapter.  

So, all this to say that though I usually reserve my list of "favorite authors" for those who have written at least four or five novels, I think I may have to add Jamie Ford to the list.  I truly cannot wait for his next one.

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