The Ash Family

Author: Molly Dektar

Published: April 9, 2019

Publisher: Katherine Simon & Schuster

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: family, coming of age, communal living (cult)

My Rating: 3

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Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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.

My Thoughts:

First I will say, this is the idea that has been spinning around in my head since I was a coffee-gulping, clove smoking, book loving English major who made her own clothes and had dreams of writing and reading for a living while living communally and off the land. Ohhhh to be a college kid again lol. I wrote a plot outline and bought a book to help me sketch out my ideas, but that’s about as far as I got. When I first read the synopsis of the book, I yelped, “this is THE book.” I was excited to dig in!

The good:  I thought that the descriptions and writing itself was beautiful. I was in those woods, smelling those smells and experiencing those adventures. I also loved the idea of exploring communal living and the way Dektar wrote some of these characters was fantastic! Climate change is real and I loved how this was shown and America’s denial was mentioned. That’s using your author power for good 🙂 And sign me up for anything that has cult-y feels to it! I am completely enamored by cult stories.

The not so great: As for plot and actual story line, I think there was a bit more that could have been explored and it, at times, fell a bit flat for me. That is a big deal for me. There wasn’t much happening and I found my brain wandering a little bit as I was reading. Also, I am not always opposed to an unreliable narrator, but here it didn’t serve me in any way.

Overall, it was a good story line and one that I really wanted to love. With a bit more happening in the story, I think I would have LOVED this book, but as it stands-it was just an okay read for me. With that said, I’m really looking forward to what else Dektar has to offer us-I think she shows fantastic potential with this debut title.

Did you read The Ash Family? What did you think? Let me know here, or over on Instagram (bookishfolk). Also-throw any and all cult/communal living books my way! I am obsessed and still looking for the one that got away 😉

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Published: February 21, 2012

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Coming of Age, Family Dynamics

My Rating: 5 stars (more if I could)

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

My Thoughts:

I couldn’t have loved this book any more if I tried. First, it was so beautiful (both the writing and the characters), it was real, brought out true emotions in me and highlighted diverse characters- more of this please! Second, life lessons are strewn throughout this book, but not necessarily as stand out points, but in this subtle way that makes you think, as a reader, you came to the conclusion yourself, but in reality, it’s the writing and characters that led you there. It’s so real. Third, the pace was slow and intentional…and exactly how life really is. So many novels, especially YA novels, take you on trips and adventures and show you characters who have made insanely large life decisions in 200 pages, but this book felt more true to life. More true to a teenage life with small, but important things happening, a few big whammies, and then a lot of mundane things in-between. Also…both sets of parents are everything. It’s rare to see genuine, honest parenting depicted in YA books, but here we have it and it was refreshing to see.

To be honest, I didn’t even know how much I was loving this book until I finished it. I’m not a huge crier during books, but I audibly wept and haven’t stopped thinking about these characters since I finished the book. This would be an excellent book club choice to explore identity, acceptance, family dynamics and how it feels to write your own life story, instead of following the life story that has been laid out for you. I highly recommend this book to people of all ages. I’ve said this multiple times to multiple people, but if more books like this were written, I truly believe the world would be a better place.

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

 

The Female Persuasion

Author: Meg Wolitzer

Published: April 3, 2018

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Feminism, Adult Fiction, Coming of Age story

My Rating: 4 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.

My Thoughts:

First, what I loved about this book…It is definitely a relevant book right now with women’s rights being at the forefront of our society and media, what is currently happening in our political climate, and the “me too” movement sweeping the nation where women are feeling the power to stand up to the misogyny and abuse that they we have experienced for so many years. It feels like a powerful time and as a women, I am so proud to stand up and be a part of it. So when books are written with these themes, it make me feel like we are being heard, people are talking, and things are changing-so…give.me.all.the.books! Second, I always love books that look at people from different generations and compare and contrast them. In this book, Greer (the main protagonist) and Faith (Greer’s mentor) deal with their feminism and the idea that they are both fighting the good fight, but they are coming at it from two different generations-which is not only an issue for them, but I think rings soooo true for feminists today. I see it all the time with friends and family older than me, and I also see it in women younger than me too. We come at feminism in quite different ways, and although we are all truly fighting the good fight, we have so much to learn from each other, and this book definitely deals with that. Third, I LOVE when characters are flawed…and these characters, all of them, are just that. People are flawed, I am certainly flawed, so give me real characters and I’m sold. This definitely happened in The Female Persuasion.

With that said, I definitely struggled with one major thing throughout the book. To me, it seemed as though Wolitzer had a list of current topics that she wanted to cover and subtopics she wanted to include in her novel, and as she included them within the narrative, she checked them off and moved on to the next. It felt jam-packed full of subjects and talking points, each wedged into the narrative, and instead of delving into each idea a bit more, it was mentioned, checked off, and moved on from. I would have liked to see a bit more insight into each of these major topics, so readers could gain a better understanding of what is going on in the real world-to me, that’s when the real learning happens.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Female Persuasion.  I think it would make a fantastic book club choice where the readers take the topics Wolitzer brings up and really gets into the nitty gritty.