Book – How can a mother abandon her seven year old son at an orphanage with promises that she will return for him and still leave him there for years after she is famous and prosperous? Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford tells the story of William, now 12, a resident of Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage in the 1920s. He still has loving memories of his ah-ma and is certain that a woman named Willow Frost that he sees in a film advertisement is his actual mother. William is determined to track her down wanting to know why he was abandoned. He tries to escape the orphanage with dreams of re-uniting with his mother. This book follows the trials and stories of both William and Liu Song (Willow Frost). This is a wonderful story of a “boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past—both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness” ~ from the book jacket. Ford also does a great job of conveying a vivid sense of the time period and atmosphere. A thought provoking novel that would be great for book discussion groups. If you enjoy this book you should also read Ford’s first book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
Book – Orphan trains ran from the East Coast to the Midwest from 1854 to 1929. They carried orphan children who needed homes and were available for adoption. The children aboard the trains had few options and could easily be exploited in their new homes. Orphan Train tells two parallel stories: the current plight of foster child Molly Ayer and the life story of Vivian Daly, an elderly woman who once rode the Orphan Train. Their lives intersect when teenage Molly is assigned a community service project to help Vivian sort through the boxes stored in her attic. Molly has not known much unconditional love in her years in foster care, and as a friendship begins to blossom between the two woman, Molly is able to confront her current demons. In turn, Vivian is able to come to peace with her past and her secrets. This book illustrates and contrasts the situations and emotions that children without loving caretakers face, both in the past and the present. However, it also depicts the positive impact of people in the community who reach out with love and care in a troubled situation and, in doing so, can provide a bright and hopeful future.