Jamie Ford’s second novel, Songs of Willow Frost (Ballantine, Sept.), handily lives up to the promise of its much-praised predecessor (and Ford’s debut), Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. In Songs, we meet William Eng, a Chinese-American boy who lives at the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Seattle during the Great Depression. When he and the other boys at the orphanage make their annual trip downtown to a movie, William is sure that the film’s leading lady is his mother. He and his friend Charlotte, a blind girl eager to take charge of her fate, decide to run away and seek out the actress in question. Told from the alternating perspectives of William and the actress, who turns out to be his mother, the story highlights the challenges of the immigrant experience, the social climate of the Depression, and the limited opportunities available to women in the 1930s. The urgency of childhood, the heart-wrenching decisions parents must make, and the trials of poverty give this novel a solid emotional footing.