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on September 29, 2010
What a delightful coming of age novel by a new author. It is a fast moving story about Molly, a young girl searching for answers from the past as she moves forward to the future. Molly is a member of close knit family in the 1950's. She has a loving mom who has so much love to give that she shares it with her children as well as the children of other family members. She has a warmhearted dad who is probably an alcoholic but she constantly forgives his binges because of her deep love and respect for him. Molly's stories of family hardships and good times are entwined with a family secret she is attempting to solve by eavesdropping on private family conversations and trips to the library searching old newspapers. This appears to be is an innocent novel but at times there are shocking revelations. A very good read.
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on November 3, 2010
Loved this novel. I was born and raised in the Wilkes-Barre area and moved away. Whenever I would go back to visit my family I would say I am going home. My husband heard about this novel from a friend and bought it for me for my birthday.
He wrote on the gift card, "Going Home". And that is exactly what this novel did. It took me home. It took me back to Northeast Pa. It took me back to the fifties and how simple life was then. I fell in love with Molly Branigan. As she narrates her story she reminds me of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. The story moves quickly and each chapter is just as interesting as the last. This would be a good choice for a Christmas gift for anyone who calls Northeast Pa home.
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on November 18, 2010
Loved that this story unfolded through the eyes of a 5 yr old...made it more real because of using a child's voice to describe the family goings on before she was born that still affect her. And she knows there is more to unfold as she uses all that is available to her as a child to learn it. There was so much family loyalty that prevented the truth from coming out...people moved and kept secrets to protect the family. Amazing how it all came together with all the twists and turns as life kicked in. Was able to visualize the area from the author's description without ever being in similar environments. For me it was a mystery until the end .... loved how the truth caused her to become even closer to her dad. Was hard to put down .. brilliant book. A must read.
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on October 29, 2011
3.5 stars

In the 1950s, life is hard for the Pennsylvania mountainside coal community of Giant's Despair. The community is struggling with economic collapse, as well as dealing with the fumes from an underground coal fire, which is poisoning their trees and their water supply. This story is a snapshot into the life of one family, as told through the eyes of young Molly. She tells of the stress that comes from living in the dying community. Through her, we meet her hard drinking father, her mother who is native to the town, her older brother and sister, her odd assortment of relatives and members of the community. As life goes on, Molly discovers an old diary and sets out to discover more of her family's history. The more Molly digs, the more she learns, and the more she discovers her family's history is not exactly what she has been lead to believe...and perhaps how some things should have been left untold.

Ms. Hester writes of a time long past, a simpler time where modern conveniences were rare, and family loyalty is paramount. The community of Giant's Despair is brought to life in vivid detail, the reader smells the smoke from the underground mine fires and feels the bitter winter and the hope of the oncoming spring. In the beginning of the story, we meet Molly as a young and innocent girl, as the book progresses she grows older and her innocence is slowly lost. She discovers her father is not the big strong man she believes him to be, realizing for the first time he has weaknesses. Like all father/daughter relationships, this moment of innocence lost is devastating. Molly's parents have a deep love for each other and their children, and throughout the story, this love is tested and holds strong. Molly's mom is a strong woman; she sees her husband's faults and still does everything she can to hold her family together. As the book progresses, we learn more about each member of Molly's immediate and extended family...although, like Molly, we may end up wishing we hadn't.

Whispers from the Ashes is a book about coming of age; it is a story of a hard life that is not easy to read. As a reviewer, I read have the genres I enjoy, but it is my job to describe a book and tell the reader the highs and lows. I'm not supposed to bring personal feelings into the review. If I usually read and enjoy a certain genre, personal preference is not supposed to come into the review. Unfortunately, I just can't set those feelings aside for this book. I just don't read "tough life" type books. Life is hard enough; I read for pleasure and need an occasional spot of sunshine in my books. This book reminded me of a cold, dark, rainy day, with just no sunshine to be seen. I hate to admit I was tempted to abandon the book at times, and it took me a long time to finish reading because I would become either bored or depressed and would set it aside. When it came time to rate the book, I had a hard time deciding on a rating. Was it a well-written book? No doubt about that. Did I enjoy it, I can't say I liked or disliked it, I just got through it. Bottom line, if you enjoy coming of age books that aren't sunny and bright, but instead real and gritty, then this book is for you. While not my cup of tea, I can say it was well- written, the characters are all brought to life and the reader does get to feel their pain and little joys.

Member of Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
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on April 17, 2011
Absolutely LOVED this book !! An amazingly well written interwoven story that blends emotions and hard realities, familial and community relations, simple living and harsh industrialization, and so much more in the way one would blend a fine dessert. Wow! "Wow" is all I could say as this book wound down to its ending. What a beautiful story of a young girl's (Molly's) life. A walk from innocence into 'the way things are' through so many facets all at once.

I bought this book out of a personal interest in the setting. I now live not far from where everything takes place. But I was not prepared for the beauty of the story itself. I've got tears flowing even as I write this review. If you love a story written in the simplicity of small town life, that takes you much deeper than than fast paced drama and high speed chases, you'll love this book. Thank you Patricia Hester for a novel so easy and compelling to read, so full and rich in detail.

I loved the sense of actually 'being there'. The feeling that I could see not only through Molly's eyes but through the eyes of other characters as well. To feel what lies in their hearts and motivates actions, and how those actions can and DO affect the lives of so many others. The author brought this out on so many levels. The story just weaves back and forth in a very casual way, beautiful for its ease and simplicity. I'm moved particulary by the close interactions of Molly and her family, especially her father. Being the father of two daughters myself it was very easy to relate. And yet there was so much more.

Another facet of the story that affected me, and affects us all in one way or another is the end result of heavy-handed industrialization on a community. In years past in this area it was coal, today it's natural gas and hydraulic fracking. The previous one scarred the land, the present one permanently contaminates our ground water. Both leave us ruined from within to the benefit of a few wealthy company owners and the public servants they buy to do their bidding. This part of the story moves like a tide beneath everything else that happens. And it's so true to life. Our precious life-giving resources are dying all over again.
I very highly recommend this book.

This is indeed a jewel of a book and I highly recommend it! Buy it today and go on one beautifully blended journey. Enjoy!
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on February 4, 2012
This is not a bad book by any means; it's just not great. The story is good but needs to be edited by about half. There are a few bright spots of family togetherness, but overall it's a bit gloomy with the hardscrabble life of the coal mining community and with the inevitable problems alcoholism brings. I struggled to get through the first 2/3 of the book. The mystery was a bit too drawn out as well. If you do finish the book, you'll be glad you held out to get the blanks filled in. If you need to book to carry you through a long weekend, one you can put down easily, this one will do.
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on January 18, 2012
Whispers From the Ashes centers around Molly, an innocent child who worships her family, especially her father. However, after discovering a hidden diary filled with hints of serious misdeeds, Molly begins to research extended family members, real and dead. What she finds changes the entire family forever.

Patricia Hester has an amazing writing talent. I especially admired the writer's ability to have the insidious mine fire symbolically mirror the slowly developing story as Molly learns more horrible family secrets.

Whispers From the Ashes is one of those books were the characters ARE the story and the plot is a murky as the lives of the characters. This book is a narrative about a family struggling to live under very difficult circumstances, including a mine fire eating underneath their town. This book is also a mystery, with family tragedies and scary secrets, that prove to be as insidious as the fire below their home.

Personally though, this book was outside the usual genres I read, so the gritty aspects of this hard-scrabble mining family really did disturb me. If books with violence, especially sexual violence against children bother you, this might be a book you want to skip despite the talented writing.
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on September 12, 2012
Molly's family lives in a coal-mining neighborhood near an underground coal fire that is slowly destroying the town. Her father is a drunk, beleaguered by family secrets that Molly is determined to uncover after she discovers an old diary hidden in her bedroom wall. As the mystery is slowly unraveled, the underground menace creeps ever closer, threatening their home and their lives from without as the secrets and lies threaten to destroy them from within.

Ms Hester has told a poignant heartrending tale. The book is very well written, using beautiful poetic descriptions. Although the story is often sad and depressing, it accurately depicts a previous era and the hardscrabble existence common to coal miners' families during that time, when profit was king and workers were expendable. Rich with flawed characters, I sometimes had trouble keeping them all straight, but you eventually realize this is common in these small isolated communities, where everyone is related by blood or tied to each other by their shared circumstances. A fabulous book, deserving far more than the five stars I'm allowed to give.
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on January 6, 2012
This is the type of book that doesn't seem to have a plot. Anyway, this is just my point of view--not a professional one. I liked the way it started out, but then it got very wordy and rather boring, sorry to say.
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on February 4, 2012
I don't give 5 stars unless I really enjoyed the book and the story doesn't want to leave me even after the last page is turned. This book has history, family secrets, tragedy, and over it all a young girl growing up in the mid 1950's. I enjoyed reading about the coal mines and their effect on the town and the people who lived there. I enjoyed all the characters--all very realistic with very human flaws. The family secrets that Molly are able to decipher are revealed a piece at the time leading to a revelation that Molly finds difficult to face.

Great story, I loved this book! I highly recommend it.
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