Rating: 4 / 5
Molly Dektar’s The Ash Family is the atmospheric and deeply interesting story of a young woman who joins an off-the-grid cooperative of radical environmental activists.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the free book!
Berie is off to college in Virginia when at once she decides that she doesn’t want to go. What she wants is what a man she meets at the bus station is offering: living as one with nature, a chance to make a difference in the environment, a purpose and place in the world. Together, they travel to the backwoods of North Carolina, where the Ash family lives in a self-sufficient off-the-grid commune.
Berie spends her time at the Ash family farm working harder than she’s ever worked before and trying to be accepted by the other family members. The leader of the family, Dice, is hard to please and impossible to read. Berie is instructed to leave the “fake world” behind, but as hard as she tries she can’t forget about her ex-boyfriend, Isaac, and her mother.
The Ash family begins to show their true colors the longer Berie stays with them. Even if she wanted to leave – and she denies that she does -, she isn’t allowed to. She will spend the rest of her life with the Ash family and will willingly put herself in harm’s way for the greater good of the family and the environment. Or will she?
Please take caution while reading The Ash Family if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Sexual assault
- Animal death
- Death or dying
- Pregnancy / childbirth
- Miscarriage / abortion
I love books about cults or off-the-grid communities -incidentally, often one and the same – so I was predisposed to enjoying this book. The descriptions of nature and Berie’s internal thoughts were bonuses that enhanced the fascination of the story and added serious depth.
Dektar’s writing is heavily descriptive, making the book as a whole very atmospheric. I desperately wanted to be at the Ash family farm to experience what Berie was experiencing – the good aspects, at least – because Dektar’s descriptions were so compelling. She also masterfully used anchoring points in her story to bring the reader back to home after a particularly troubling or confusing moment. These techniques created for me a vivid life at the farm that kept me going through some of the duller parts of the story.
The character development, while at times not as deep as other books I’ve loved, was fantastic. You get to know Berie very well, but you also meet several other Ash family members and understand their backgrounds, quirks, reasons for joining the family. In my opinion, what leads a person to join a cult is just as interesting as what happens in the cult, and we get both sides of the coin here.
The Ash Family is a novel about nature, about the deepest needs of humans, of animals, and of the environment. It is about the lengths that one is willing to go to do what they believe is right. This is a fascinating story told with beautifully descriptive prose, and I highly recommend it – especially to readers who enjoyed The Girls or My Absolute Darling.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on The Ash Family. I’d love to hear from you in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!