The Ash Family

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

Berie is supposed to be on her way to college, and her Mom thinks she is on her way to the airport. But Berie meets Bay who is charming with a magnetic personality just what you would expect in a cult recruiter. Berie decides to follow him, although it might be just for a few days to see how she likes it. A story about how easy some find it to prey on the vulnerable lost souls.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Warm and engagingly written, this novel has shades of both Station Eleven and The Girls. Not as wide a range of characters as I would typically like, but an enjoyable debut nonetheless.
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I thought this was interesting but definitely not for me. Seeing a first-person fictional story about joining a cult is pretty unique in itself and the writing was truly great. I was engaged the entire time that I was reading this. 

That being said, the ending was a bit chaotic which felt very forced with how the author's writing style had been up until that point. Overall it was great though, definitely an interesting read even if it turns out that I'm just not that interested in this type of novel.
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This book left me with really mixed feelings. It was well-written and I couldn't put it down towards the end, so I'm glad I read it. At the same time, I just really didn't like the characters, what was happening, or how it ended. To be fair, I don't think I was supposed to - it's about a cult, after all. 

I didn't like the main character one bit, but I have to give credit to the author for creating her - it was an act of brilliance to make this chick the narrator of the story. She's troubled, she's selfish, she's got more bad characteristics than good ones, and she's definitely disturbed too. Yet I didn't for one second think of her as an unreliable narrator - no doubts that the story as she told it was meant to be the real story. I love the backstory about her big head injury back in high school, too - repeated just enough to make us wonder how that might have affected her, but not enough for us to excuse her lack of emotion or concern for others.

I don't think this is intended to have a sequel, but I would be interested to see another book about the Ash family told from a different character's perspective (maybe Sara or Bay?), maybe picking up where this one leaves off.
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I dont usually read books about 'fictional' cults...especially when there are SO many actual cults to read about but I gave this one a chance.
Unfortunately, for me this book was a bit of a miss. While I could empathize with "Harmony' about wanting to find meaning in life and escape others expectations, the leader 'Dice' was not charismatic or enchanting, so it was difficult to see how anyone would follow him or the family.

The story itself was a quick and fast read, so if you need a weekend book to pass time - this book will work great.
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Molly Dektar is going on my list as a must by author. I was blown away by her beautiful writing. 

Berie is on her way to college, but unsure of her place there. When she meets a man named Bay at the bus depot, he convinces her that college isn't right for her, and he knows a place she can go. Without a word to her family Berie follows Bay back to a farm deep in the North Carolina mountains, where a commune called The Ash Family works and lives off the land. Bay introduces Berie to Dice, the charismatic, sinister leader of the family. Dice tells her she's welcome to stay for three days or for the rest of her life, no in between. 

Berie falls for what the family says they have to offer, but all is not what it seems.
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It took me several chapters to really understand the author's poetic flow, but once I did, I really enjoyed the story.  This book is written with such beautiful imagery that you are vividly transported into Harmony's world.
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This is a quiet, mesmerizing book about the powers of a cult over lost, lonely or confused young souls.
Beryl is on her way to college, financed in part by her mother selling a cherished piece of jewelry. In an act of defiance, she walks away from the bus, leaving her backpack and following Bay, an enigmatic young man who isn’t good-looking but is heavy on the charisma. Beryl is swept up in the methodology and habits of the Ash Family farm, a co-op in their eyes, a cult to outsiders. The author, Molly Dektar, does a fantastic job writing and weaving the emotional traps and the hypnotic senseless speeches and opinions of the leader, Dice. I’ve never been in a cult but I could easily see the inner workings and trappings being exactly as described by Dektar; the manipulating to make the weak feel that they can’t survive without the blessing and approval of the leader. Dice and his sidekick Bay are scrupulous and eerily haunting in their control of the others.
This isn’t a feel-good happy ending book. It’s a realistic picture of weak and lost young souls who can’t find it in themselves to stand up so they lean on those who shouldn’t be trusted. I thoroughly enjoyed each page of this slowly engulfing sinkhole of humanity; a glimpse into a world that you know is out there but wise enough to avoid.
(I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to Simon & Shuster for making it available.)
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Dektar sets the scene for the reader immediately, through the eyes of our narrator, Berie. Except Berie is not supposed to tell anyone her name in this new place, she needs to leave it behind. She’s given a choice – stay with us for three days, or the rest of your life.
 
Without much thought, Brie adopts this new life for herself at the Ash Family Farms, leaving the “fake world” behind. She reveals herself as someone eager to please, eager to fall under a spell. She wants to prove herself to the Ash Family. But quickly, the cracks in this community start showing – evasive answers, hushed whispers, disappearances. Berie soon starts questioning herself - and everything around her. In some ways, it felt like a quiet Bluebeard fable mixed with those news stories you hear about but can't quite wrap your head around.
 
This novel is rather slim and Dektar’s writing is propulsive, I read this book practically in one sitting. I found myself, like Berie, not sure how I let the time get away from me.
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I think there is something so fascinating about cults and the type of people who are attracted to cults. This novel is the story of the fictional "Ash family," a cult that resides in the mountains of NC. Readers are given a firsthand view of the indoctrination of Berie/Harmony, a young girl who leaves her family and college education behind to become a member of the family.

I liked this book, but I do think the ending was a little hectic and confusing. I wanted more closure and more insight into the aftermath of Berie's experiences in the family. Overall, a quick and interesting read.
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I didn't care for this book at all. The story was distasteful and repetitive in places. The characters provoked no sympathy and little interest.  The concept initially caught my interest, but basic storytelling was lacking.
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This novel is about doing what makes YOU happy. It has interesting cult aspects, which I really appreciated. The pacing was a bit slow but the plot was still amazing. Thank you to Netgalley and to the publisher for providing an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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I've read several books about cults and enjoyed them all, but this one was quite different in the haunting way the story unfolds. Berie (aka Harmony in the Ash Family compound) is a nineteen-year-old woman who is supposed to board an airplane for college, when she meets the magnetic Bay at a bus stop and he convinces her to travel with him to their mountain community. Their credo is, "You can stay 3 days or the rest of your life." Sounds appealing, right? But of course we know how these enigmatic leaders suss out the weak, the lost, the vulnerable, and then seduce and manipulate them into believing they are loved and part of a greater "whole." And so Harmony is sucked into this "family" as they work constantly with livestock and nature, growing their own crops and sustaining themselves under the leadership of Dice, the Father Figure of the group. And of course there is more than just "harmony" in the group; there are protests and "actions" that involve the members putting their lives at risk, all in the name of community and fighting back at the "fake" world,
     But the difference with this book is Dektar's writing; it is both hypnotic and haunting as we see from Harmony's perspective how she is slowly taken in by the smooth-talking Dice and taught to "get relativity" and "there's no such thing as a definite self." Huh?? But she wants to believe so strongly that she gives into these nebulous theories and believes all the wild allegations that Siberia is melting and Armageddon is close on its heels. With many other novels like these, I find myself thinking, "How can you not see what is happening here?" But with this book, even though Harmony is naive and needy, somehow I sympathized with her as she desperately clings to the idea that she loves Bay and she will come to be trusted. Granted, it's uncomfortable reading at times, but isn't part of reading a good book getting out of one's comfort zone to uncover truths that permeate society?
So hats off to Dektar for a marvelous debut novel! I certainly look forward to more from her!
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Such a truly wonderful story that you can immerse yourself in. The way the author writes this really connects and I found myself lost in the words. So much conflict filled into the pages, it really makes you think and try to look beyond the story itself. I highly recommend.
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It was fascinating to read about a fictional cult from the first person perspective, especially with the timeline beginning right before Berie formally joins The Ash Family. The everyday details of how a cult like this lives seemed very authentic - I wish there were more! I also wish I got to know the other characters a bit better. I kept having to remind myself that there were around 30 people in the "family" because from Berie's - renamed Harmony - perspective, it seemed like there were 5. If the family were so dependent on each other, wouldn't she interact with others more? However, the characters she did interact with regularly seemed genuine enough. Dice, the family's father, was a very believable character. 

The story is told reflectively, which propels you to the ending to figure out what eventually happens with this community. The ending is unfortunately far too abrupt and, consequently, unsatisfying. I would have loved maybe another 20 pages with a more resolute and consequential conclusion.
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I am not sure how I feel about this one. I thought it was well written, very vivid images. But Berie/Harmony drove me nuts. She just seemed too naive and clueless and I had a hard time believing that with her back story that would be the case. I tried to just go with it, but I kept coming back to just wanting to slap her. Which I guess is a little the point and why I would never make it in a cult. I would definitely read another work by this author though.
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The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover – then I read the description and knew I was all in. I have a thing for reading books that are set in communes, and I was super excited to start this one.

Idealistically, a commune sounds like a beautiful thing, one that appeals to my crunchy granola type nature. Off-grid living, living off the land, baking your own bread every day, enjoying the fruits of your labors all sounds so back to the basics, pure, wholesome. Except sometimes ideas can get twisted up and ugly, sometimes they can take a wrong turn. Berie meets Bay at the bus stop after a spur of the moment decision to not get on the plane that will take her to college. She is unsure of where she wants to go or what to do, and suddenly, an answer appears. Bay tells her that there is a rule about going to the farm – you either stay three days or you stay forever. When Berie’s three days are up, she doesn’t leave.

Berie is a person adrift, wanting to stay at the farm and be part of something bigger, part of the wilderness, part of this family hidden away in the hills, yet has a hard time letting go of her “fake” life, as the community refers to the rest of the world. Their life on the farm is real, all else is fake. Dice is their leader, their “father”, and has a magnetic personality that compels those around him to want to please him, to follow his wishes, no questions asked. He is doing penance for the crimes against the earth that he committed in his “fake” life, before he started the farm. A man committed to the “real” world he has created, yet has a fondness for soap scented with artificial pine while living among actual pine trees. He has rules and doctrines that the family must live by, with some pretty steep punishments. There are no possessions, everything belongs to everyone, there are no couples, no children are allowed. No pharmaceutical medicines, if you get sick or injured it is all folklore remedies. No talking about your life before, and heaven forbid the rest of the family think you are shirking your duties. It is a hard life, but they are doing what they feel they need to do. And the family’s desire to protect the planet is extreme – they are not just a band of happy hippies, they are eco-terrorists, cooking up more than jam on the farm. They make bombs, and bullets, and not only are they not afraid to use them, they are looking for the opportunity.

Berie does her best to fit in, but while she is 99% brainwashed, she still isn’t completely sold. She realizes she is an empty vessel, waiting for someone to fill her up with what she needs to do and be, and she feels that her place is on the farm, tending the sheep. Even before the farm, she seemed to live her life by what her boyfriend wanted, how he saw her through his lens. I found her a bit unlikable – her decisions didn’t only affect her, and she makes some pretty bad ones. Also, her mother is this huge shadowy figure, whom we never actually meet. Berie portrays her as some sort of villainous figure, yet her memories don’t seem to support this. Again, what is the truth?

This book was amazing – it kept me guessing, and totally off balance. I didn’t know truth from a lie, a friend from a foe, or what was really happening behind the scenes. I wanted to keep reading and reading, I wanted to know what the heck was the real story, in this story of fake and real.
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I love the cover of this book! The Ash Family tells the story of a confused young woman. Berie is on her way to college. While at a bus station, she meets Bay. Here's a guy who can smoothly tell Berie exactly what she wants to hear. She already hates her mother, boyfriend, etc., so she is easily convinced to go with Bay. He takes her to a commune/cult called The Ash Family located in the North Carolina mountains. Berie is renamed Harmonie. She will be cleansed and pure like a new person and serve mother Earth. Naive? Yes. To be young and stupid......She is being brainwashed and stripped of any individual identity. A cult is like one living thing. Will she become fully immersed in the Ash Family, or will she realize who she is? The story is a quest for self identity, by process of unusual and sometimes sinister cult traditions/ceremonies? I liked the description of the cult's inner workings and would have liked more of that. Berie is a troubled, sympathetic and complex character. The story is believable and plausible. It's well written and unfolds slowly at first, but the pacing is better toward the second half. Overall, a good read. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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The Ash Family is a beautifully written coming of age story that does involve a cult, but is more about how one sees oneself and the truth about who we are/what we've done/the choices we've made. Thoughtful, lyrical, and definitely for fans of literary fiction
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I’m still processing this one. I didn’t like any of the characters, yet couldn’t stop reading. Interesting peek into cult culture and mindset.
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