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A hard life, brought to words
on October 29, 2011
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