Title: Ashes by Steven Manchester
Publisher: Story Plant
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life – and death – has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other’s company. It’s either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he’s left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.
At turns humorous, biting, poignant, and surprisingly tender, ASHES puts a new spin on family and dysfunction with a story that is at once fresh and timelessly universal.
In Ashes by Steven Manchester, two brothers heal the rift between them on a cross-country road trip to spread their father’s ashes.
Corrections Officer Jason Prendergast and his college professor brother Tom have been estranged for the past fifteen years when they learn their abusive father has died. In order to fulfill the terms of his will, they must embark on a cross country trip to spread his ashes in Washington state. While neither of the brothers is overly enthusiastic about the request, they agree to follow through with his wishes. Their journey is fraught with tension as they disagree about everything from the route to take to the restaurants they choose but they also bond over shared memories from their dysfunctional childhood. Will Tom and Jason make peace with their fractured past by the journey’s end?
Tom and Jason are complete opposites and their differences become even more obvious during their trip. Tom is controlled with plenty of self-discipline and he is quite health conscious. Jason, on the hand, is overweight and enjoys nothing more than a grease-laden meal and a couple beers at the end of a long day. Tom enjoys the finer things in life whereas Jason is more comfortable in a local diner. Despite these differences, both men have similar parenting styles and they have relatively good relationships with their children.
As they squabble their way across the United States, Jason and Tom are caught up in memories of both the good and bad things from their abusive childhood. They also catch up on the paths their lives have taken and they are surprised to discover they do have a few things in common. Both brothers are taken aback when their preconceived perceptions of one another are sometimes proven wrong. While some of their discussions do not end well, other conversations result in useful observations that are unexpectedly helpful. By the end of their journey, both Jason and Tom have made life-altering decisions that are a direct result of their time together. When they part ways, Jason and Tom have achieved a fragile peace between them but will this be the beginning or end of their relationship?
Ashes by Steven Manchester is an interesting journey of healing and forgiveness for both Tom and Jason. Some their interactions occasionally devolve into immature schoolboy shenanigans, but for the most part, their conversations are deep and meaningful. All in all, a remarkable story that will resonate with anyone who has experienced a rocky relationship with any of their siblings.