Songs of Willow Frost is a coming of age story set in Seattle, Washington. The main time period is 1934, the height of the Depression.
Twelve year-old William is the only Asian child at Sacred Heart Orphanage. His best friend is Charlotte, the only blind orphan. Many of the children at Sacred Heart, including William and Charlotte, are not “real” orphans. They have been deserted by parents either unable or unwilling to care for them. Despite her milky blue eyes, Charlotte sees her family clearly, most of her relatives are in prison and she knows she is better off without them.
William, however, has beautiful tender memories of his mother, who was carried out of their apartment limp and bleeding when he was only six. He longs to see her again, and when he sees starlet Willow Frost in a movie newsreel, her face and voice are so hauntingly familiar, he dares to dream she might be his long lost mother. The actress is coming to Seattle on a brief tour and William plans to escape the orphanage to see her in person. But, Charlotte, who loves William, will not be left behind, and he begins his impossible quest with a blind girl to lead and care for.
There is a touch of Oliver Twist in this story. The orphanage is not a pleasant place and the squalid street and back alleys of Seattle are full of dangerous, desperate people. William knows that he is “no little orphan Annie” and he knows chances are everything will not turn out fine in the end for him, the way it does for Annie in the popular comic strip. But he is both resourceful and resilient and he keeps trying through defeat, discouragement, and devastating grief.
I don’t want to spoil it for another reader, so I’ll leave the details out. I loved the story, found both the characters and the setting unique and memorable.
Full disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher, as I often do. I’m not paid for my reviews and if I don’t like a book, I say so. This one, I liked a lot. You can buy a copy after September 10, 2013. View all my reviews