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The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

The Ash Family

by Molly Dektar

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537331,363 (3.5)5



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This was an interesting book that told the story of nineteen year old Berie and how she was lured into an isolated commune deep in the woods. The story then continues to show the manipulation and brainwashing that led Berie to eventually change her name to Harmony, shun her "fake" life and denounce her family. The book was a bit slow, there wasn't much action. Instead it focused on two years in the life of Harmony and her family, also known as "ashers." I received a complimentary ebook from the publisher in exchange for a review. ( )
  melaniehope | May 1, 2019 |
The Ash Family tells the story of a disaffected young woman who was pressured to go to college who really needed a gap year to figure out what she wanted. She doesn’t get on the plane to school and is soon picked up by a young man who invites her to join him with his family on a farm. The reader quickly realizes he is a cult recruiter and this won’t end well, but we’re seeing it all through her perspective and at first, it is wonderful. She feels a sense of purpose in her life for the first time.

Of course, it is not what she expected. She has a lot of work, hard work. The community reinforces its norms with peer pressure and with accountability sessions similar to the struggle sessions of the Chinese revolution, deeply humiliating, psychological torture that continues until a person breaks under the pressure of communal disapproval. We, as readers, can see the way the leader and the members of the commune enforce a new social order and strip away the past.

I liked The Ash Family quite a bit. It gave us a good depiction of how the self can be broken by a cult. We also saw how doubt and disquiet can grow and be fostered. Harmony was ripe for recruitment because she had no goals for her future. I also like the ambiguity at the end. Dektar excels at describing the land, with active and colorful language that makes it all come alive. This is an emotionally compelling book that offers us very contrasting characters from the charismatic leader to the enigmatic recruiter and from the indomitable Queen to the pliable Harmony. The characters are credible and complex, making for a very compelling story.

The Ash Family will be released April 9th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Ash Family at Simon & Schuster
Molly Dektar on Instagram

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/9781501144868/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Apr 1, 2019 |
I really dislike writing negative reviews but, with this book, I can’t see any way around it. I could not finish this book. The cult members and “false world” references completely turned me off. (For me personally, the frequent use of the term “false world” brought to mind “fake news”.) I could not muster up any compassion for the characters in this story. In addition, the writing itself really needed some work. I really appreciate the advance egalley from Simon & Schuster. So sorry but I just cannot recommend this book. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Mar 31, 2019 |
Berie is 19 years old and is very unsure about going to college. It’s her mother’s dream, not hers. When she meets a stranger named Bay at a local bus station, she decides to give his off-the-grid community a chance. They tell her that she can stay three days or forever so she has a little time to decide. She’s always felt a connection with nature and wants to help save the world and thinks that this community, known as “The Ash Family”, is the answer so she decides to stay. She’s given a new name – Harmony – and is encouraged to forget the “fake world”. She learns how to take care of the farm animals but soon learns that there’s a violence to that part of the world that she has trouble accepting. She struggles with thoughts and longings for the “fake world” and with her desire to be a trusted part of this family. She begins to have doubts but she’s been pulled so far into this secretive world that she believes she may be trapped forever.

This is the author’s debut and while it isn’t perfect, it held me completely in its thrall. There’s a deep understanding of how a cult leader can manipulate the mind, creating a strong desire to belong and be trusted, no matter what. While there were certainly times I wanted to shake Berie and tell her to wake up, I could see how she was masterfully pulled into this world. She was kept exhausted physically by the hard farm work and her mind was constantly being influenced by the leader’s “stories”. Berie soon feared the family’s lack of trust more than she feared their punishments. There are moments of literary beauty that assures this author of a promising career with her vivid, realistic characterization and atmospheric setting. This is an author to keep an eye on.

A strong debut that is highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review. ( )
  hubblegal | Mar 23, 2019 |
When I began this book, I was fairly certain it would end up as a DNF for me. However, I was interested enough to keep reading and give it a chance. While I did have some issues with the story, I also was intrigued and engaged with what was happening.

A young woman named Beryl is headed to college, but suddenly decides to go off the grid and join this “family” and take a new name, cutting all ties with her former life. I never did understand why Beryl’s life was in such a state that she felt compelled to join this group and just disappear.

The writing reminded me somewhat of stories like The Handmaid’s Tale, where there are sparse details, so the reader must try and imagine what is going on behind the scenes. I wasn’t that pleased with the ending. I’m guessing it was purposefully written to be confusing.

I’m glad I stayed the course and finished the book. I liked it in spite of a few issues I had with the story. This is a debut novel, so I look forward to seeing future work from this author.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review. ( )
  tamidale | Mar 21, 2019 |
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When a young woman leaves her family, and the civilized world, to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel. At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can't untangle. Berie, now renamed Harmony, renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear. Thrilling and profound, The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging.… (more)

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