Monday, August 7, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Middle Grade Monday: Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley

Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley. 233 p. G. P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers Group, April, 2017. 9780399165047. 

If you are a reader who loves sad books, Ashes to Asheville is just your ticket. Really, anything by Sarah Dooley is. This is her third book and I have loved the three I have read. Her strengths as a writer lie in gorgeous writing and character development. Each of her main characters just wiggle right into my heart and stay there. In Ashes to Asheville, two sisters won me over on page one. (Her secondary characters tend to be memorable as well.)

It has been six months since Zany (Zoey) and Fella's (Ophelia) Mama Lacey died. The sisters no longer live together because Fella's maternal grandmother, Mrs. Madison, sued Mama Shannon for custody of Fella and won. Neither Mrs. Madison nor the state of Virginia accepted Mama Lacey and Mama Shannon's relationship. (It is 2004, before marriage equality laws were passed.) Mrs. Madison even took her daughter's ashes. Mama Lacey's wish was for her ashes to be strewn in the place where she was happiest, Asheville, North Carolina. Sixteen-year-old Zany has decided to steal Mama Lacey's ashes and Mama Shannon's car and drive to Asheville with Fella to do so. Things go wrong from the beginning starting with Mrs. Madison's annoying poodle coming along for the ride.

Road trip books are a bit tricky. Road trip books that involve children hitting the road are even trickier. The reader needs to suspend belief and just go along for the ride, ignoring plot conveniences. It helped to have these girls propelling the story; their squabbling and fierce love for each other take center stage and are alternately amusing and heartbreaking.
So grab a box of tissues and settle in because you might just read this one in one big gulp. 

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