Have you ever watched a cherry blossom float from the tree and drift to the sidewalk? The blossom might play with the air on a waltzing descending glide to the end game of life, crushed by a passing pedestrian or build the soil for a future. This is the only way I can reasonably describe the storytelling style of Jamie Ford in SONGS OF WILLOW FROST.
Tradition and grace just stoke each page and the tension propels the reader to understand the historic context and the cultural changes being revealed; the depths of human spirit unmasked. Ford takes us back to Seattle and the Chinese community he first shared with us in the WWII novel HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET . The reader is seeing the world in 1934 through a young Chinese boy’s eyes on the day in which all the Orphan boys are allowed to celebrate their birthday by going to a movie. William is twelve years old on this day and allowed to ask about his mother before going on the field trip. He doubts what the nuns are telling him.
The second story of SONGS OF WILLOW FROST is the truth about Liu Song and how she became William’s mother. Her story begins in 1921, after the death of her father and brothers in the Influenza outbreak. Her parents and family had been the primary players in the Chinese Opera House in Seattle and they had built a fine company and reputation. Liu Song’s Mother was beautiful and an amazing singer, her talent for singing was passed on to her daughter, who made a living by singing the songs at a music store which sold the sheet music of the popular tunes of the period.
Although this is a work of fiction, it supplies the details of how individuals reacted and survived the events of history that created their context. In this telling, it was the music that kept the heart beating and the emotion in control; the love possible. It was the movies and the traveling shows which allowed the heart to escape and the mind to envision a future and of course provide the possibility of hope.
Elegant story telling. Magnificent word smithery. One is left to wonder page by page whether or not the petal is crushed or whether it nourishes. Ford’s writing does not disappoint in SONGS OF WILLOW FROST.