The Ash Family

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

Nineteen year old Beryl, or “Berie ” for short, meets a mysterious man near her home in North Carolina and while promised a new life with him, she actually ends up living in a cultish community instead. 

Anytime a book takes place in my home state of North Carolina, I’m drawn to it right away. However, some things fell a little flat for me in this story. Berie was a likeable enough character, but there wasn’t a big draw to character building otherwise that I was really hoping for. 

I love reading books with cults or I should say I’m curious about them. I loved The Girls and I guess I was looking for a book more along those lines.

*Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for this digital advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5, rounded up for beautiful writing. 

As a debut novel, The Ash Family is well above what one might expect, in terms of the quality of language. I was lured in by the cult premise, which I think will leave others who are likewise looking for a cult-based psychological thriller disappointed. This is not a beach read or a page turner; it is far more of a nuanced, slow burn. This is literary fiction, appealing more to fans of Martha Marcy May Marlene than fans of summer blockbuster-type books.
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I think that I may have been expecting something different so I ended up being disappointed.  I wanted something more exciting/drama filled or with a character that made me feel something.  This book is well written, I just didn't find it very interesting and I would have loved to know more about the Ash Family itself.   Beryl/Harmony's introduction to the cult didn't make sense  to me, and I wish we could have more information about why in the world she was so into Bay.   I also didn't understand what drove Beryl to want to abandon her life, since her past wasn't exactly traumatic.  I had a hard time making this story feel real in my head.  I did like some of the things the book made me think about, like when does faith in someone or something turn into a dangerous obsession or brainwashing?  Overall, I liked the concept, I didn't like any of the characters, it was a little unbelievable and I was just expecting something else all together.
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I was sent a link to access this book through NetGalley, and I downloaded it based on the blurb and that it was a novel about a cult. I previously read “The Girls” by Emma Cline, and I think I had expectations of a similarly enjoyable book.

This one just felt like nothing was happening. The book opens by describing how Beryl neglects her plans for college and follows Bay to the Ash Family commune, where she is christened Harmony and starts making a place for herself among their group. The novel details their way of life, with little catastrophes along the way.

Even though there were small plot lines, I felt like the overall novel was about nothing. Just details of life in the commune and the characters that make up the family. I didn’t get any kind of character development or really any storyline, which is maybe the point because does anyone develop in a commune? I felt like I had to negotiate with myself to finish it. “Just one more chapter.”

The action was slow to nonexistent, and it just overall didn’t work for me.
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I LOVE anything about cults, and The Ash Family did not disappoint. It was also definitely a page turner! Read it in one sitting. Highly recommend.
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A well-written story of a modern-day commune/cult.  But the somewhat annoying characters and not going far enough to describe the truly evil effects of cult mentality makes it fall somewhat short.
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Molly Dektar has written an incredibly fascinating debut novel! I finished this in one day.! The Ash Family has so many interesting characters with fanatical beliefs. I really loved that this was written from the perspective of Harmony/Berie since she was such a likable and earnest character. Although it was slightly predictable, I was very happy with how things turned out for her. Overall, I will definitely be recommending this one!
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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.
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Really lovely book about cults, containing lots of superb nature writing. I reviewed it at greater length for the Arts Fuse - link below.
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The Ash Family is the story of a cult in North Carolina. Instead of heading to college, Beryl follows a man she meets at a bus station, Bay, deep into the woods, in search of a family and a sense of belonging. She becomes Harmony and is taught many lessons by The Ash Family on their farm, including to leave “the fake world” behind. Dice is the “father” of the family. When newcomers arrive, they are told they can leave in 3 days or stay forever. Those who have attempted to leave after 3 days often suffer serious consequences. Harmony works to find her place in this new community though over time, she can’t help but wonder What if? she returned to the real (fake) world. 

The premise of The Ash Family intrigued me but the execution was just ok. I felt like some characters were flat and I had a hard time buying into the story - While we all want to experience a sense of belonging, Beryl’s former life in “the fake world” was hardly traumatic. I also could not get on board with her fascination of Bay - He held zero appeal. My interest in the story waned over time instead of picking up as the story progressed. After a slow build, the ending felt abrupt too. 

Because of the cult, this story reminded me of The Girls. While there were disturbing elements included, The Ash Family was less disturbing than The Girls. I love the cover of this book and I would probably read another story by Molly Dektar, however, this one just wasn’t for me.
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How much would you sacrifice for what you believed in? 

Berie is headed off to college, by her mother's insistence, but at the airport after being dropped off, Berie spends her last dollar taking a bus away. Berie doesn't know what she wants or where to go, only that she wants to help heal the dying environment. It is fate that Bay chose her to go with him, to live with the Ash Family. To live for the new earth that will come. When Berie gets into Bay's car she goes with nothing, her clothes and suitcases left on the bus, and no one knows where in the Appalachian woods they end up.

I wanted to like this book, well, I did, somewhat, but I didn't love it. Berie is told, like all newcomers, you can stay for three days or the rest of your life. Berie is renamed Harmony. Everyone in the Ash Family leaves their fake-world names behind. The Ash Family is like a cult, but instead of religion you have fervent belief in the dying earth and desire to save it for humans; to become something else, a hive, interconnected. 

Harmony easily lets the three days go by, so she assumes that she will stay the rest of her life. But throughout the book she questions staying, or leaving, and alternates towards being certain this is the place for her. It is confusing. Berie/Harmony is a confusing character. We know she cares about the environment, was a vegetarian upon arrival, yet eats a slice of meat the first time it is offered to her without even saying anything. She is not in harmony, she is uncertain about everything. And there is part of the problem with the book. We want to like the narrator but I didn't. I couldn't understand her motives, why she would stay or want to go. And the ending was unresolved, not a strong ending at all.

Overall the book is okay, but ultimately disappointing to me. Did Berie learn, grow, become her own person? I'm not sure.
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This story was beautifully written, but fell short at the end. I adored the way the author wrote about North Carolina, the romantic yet harsh qualities of the mountains rang true and deep. I loved being in Harmony/Berie's head and seeing how she fell into this family. The sinister undertones made me turn the pages, but the last 50 pages felt rushed. I would've liked to have 30-50 more pages of falling action, where Harmony/Berie sorts through the aftermath of the family. 
I would recommend this to someone who enjoyed The Girls by Emma Cline, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, or The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon.
I will definitely keep an eye out for future works by this author, and thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the arc!
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The only way I can describe THE ASH FAMILY is horrifying and amazing. It was definitely a hard book to put down and if I had the chance, I would have read it in one sitting. 

Beryl is being pushed by her mother to go to college but she’s unsure what she wants to do and while waiting at a bus stop, she meets Bay. Bay ends up luring her into returning with him to an isolated commune in the hills of North Carolina.

If you are at all interested or intrigued by cults, this read is definitely for you.
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Even coming after THE GIRLS and other recent cult novels, this was really interesting and suspenseful.  I think the author did a great job of building the world of the novel and of developing the characters so that it was all logical and believable.
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The descriptions of the scenery are beautifully written and the writing in general is well done.  I couldn't identify with any of the characters, though, and the slow pacing of the book made it drag.  The whole cult theme seemed pretentious and frankly, I didn't care what happened to any of them.  It's always been hard for me to understand how people get sucked into cults and this is no exception.  What exactly is appealing about wearing filthy clothes, doing chores, and living in uncertain conditions?  

I'll give this book three stars based on the writing style and hope the author's next book is more to my liking.
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This novel is about a young woman, Berie (who gets renamed Harmony), who on her way to college, instead ends up joining an off the grid commune/cult in the mountains of North Carolina. It's actually a pretty quiet book over all, but with occasional jolts of creepiness. But the book is almost as much or more about the atmosphere as the plot. The writing is just so lovely and lyrical. I could not remotely relate to Harmony and her actions, but yet somehow I was able to understand her.
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I had high hopes for this one.  The premise sounded intriguing and the cover is beautiful....  I liked it and it was certainly thought-provoking but I was hoping for something more.  I wasn't crazy about the pace or the characters.
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I'm really conflicted on how to rate and what to write for this book. On one hand Molly Dektar is a great writer. I felt there were times I could actually hear and smell the things she was describing in the book. But the characters were really very blah to me. I know that we're suppose to feel something for Berie/Harmony but she's so unlikable to me that I just couldn't, even when it was apparent she was in over her head. I guess if you're really into cults this would be an interesting book to pick up but for me it lacked "that something" that makes a contemporary literature novel shine. I would probably read another novel by Dektar but I hope that if I do the characters are at least developed a little bit better than the ones in this novel. 

2 stars.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Fueled by events such as the Jonestown massacre ( drinking the Kool-aid ) and later the shoot-out at the Davidians compound in Waco, TX,  I've long been fascinated by the whole commune experience.  I've also mostly associated it with religion, but there was always the "hippie"  lifestyle as well. The first case has always incited a negative emotion while the living off the land experience seemed banal and simply a life choice about simplicity. But I've always known it was ever that simple. There's always a leader making the rules, motivated by something that may or may not jive for everyone else. And in both cases they rely on their ability to drive group think. 

That's how I found myself reading The Ash Family.  I was completely intrigued by the topic and turns out the author does a good job keeping the main character, Beryl/Harmony ( B/H)  interesting.   She motivated by her attraction to Bay, but also she is a very lonely young woman, and easily impressionable. She simply doesn't have much of an anchor in her life and she is ripe for the pickings. And Bay knows it thus she's quickly indoctrinated into the life.

Molly Dektar's writing is detailed and prolific, which makes for a compelling read. As B/H navigates her life on the farm, off the grid, she experiences highs and lows. She is transformed but being in her head and we also know she holds onto some core values. When she breaks the rules, she does it for the right reasons. This is what kept me with her, wanting to follow her on the path towards enlightenment and the freedom she sought.

4 stars and recommendation!
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✨Book Review✨
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This year, I’m embracing the DNF. If a book doesn’t grab me, if I’m not interested in it, if I’m finding it hard to get myself to keep picking it up to read, then I’m moving on. Unfortunately, I’ve been striking out with my Netgalley books because this one was also a DNF for me. It was so slow and was not holding my interest at all.
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I recommend that you go over and check out Katie’s @basicbsguide review. She posted a great review for it the other day and since she finished the book, I feel like she can give you a better feel for what to expect. She had great things to say about it!
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