Saturday, May 2, 2020

Book Review: 'Ashes' by Steven Manchester

Ashes by Steven Manchester
This reviewer became acquainted with the very special novels of Steven Manchester with his novel `The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy' and many short stories that deal with one man's view of the universe in a lighter tone. That followed with his TWELVE MONTHS, GOODNIGHT, BRIAN, ROCKIN' CHAIR, GOODNIGHT, GOOSEBERRY ISLAND, PRESSED PENNIES, THE CHANGING SEASON - each of which allowed entry into his ability to address end of life situations, family relationships as challenged by cancer, by having a child with a critical disease, with death, and with more. The aspect of Manchester's books that is dependable is his ability to introduce delicate subjects without fear and still make the stories flow with a sense of familial love, humanistic views and spiritualism. And yet always there is the gift of his ability to be a fine storyteller in the true sense of the term.

As the title suggests, ASHES is about an ending, but is it also about a beginning and about enlightenment that at times on the death of a loved one can bring. ‘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, dealing with male aging, filial contrasts . . . 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.’

Steven is able to deliver difficult messages in a manner that signifies he is wise beyond his years. Each novel grows and with that Steven’s survey of the complete cycle of life. He will be around for a long time if there are more stories like this one to share. Grady Harp, February 17
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.