Ashes. Steven Manchester. The Story Plant. February 2017. 272 pp. ISBN#: 9781611882421.
Two brothers, Jake and Tom Prendergast, who couldn’t possibly be more different, are about to take a life-transforming journey! But first we meet them individually. When we first meet Jake, he’s giving a “scared straight” speech to a bunch of juvenile delinquents. The reader wants to think it’s all a bit of a stretch, but it doesn’t take long before we know he’s speaking about what he’s seen as a security officer in an adult prison. No, it’s definitely not pretty!
Tom is a college professor who is annoyed to find out his father has died. The reader wonders immediately about what has elicited such disdain!
Both brothers are called to their father’s lawyer’s office, only to hear the father is leaving them an envelope they may not open until they travel cross-country to spread his ashes. If they refuse, they get nothing. But then nothing is what their father always gave them, nothing but grief that is.
The journey is bittersweet indeed as Jake and Tom insult each other through half of the journey while they reminisce about their brutal father who wasn’t just happy at beating them but had to see blood to make him happy. Sadist extraordinaire! But then the continuous clashes start to slightly alter as they find themselves reminiscing about their childhood and then later about their experiences as husbands and fathers.
These interspersed tender moments begin to open the brothers toward each other, along with some very funny scenes as Tom gawks at his brother’s humongous appetite and Jake gapes at Tom’s snooty tastes in food and wine. There’s a lovely ending which the reader must experience without a spoiler and which almost makes one want to read it all over again!
Steven Manchester is great at presenting a simple plot but his real gift is on depicting the variations of temperament in characters in such a wonderfully moving manner. One gets to know and love his characters no matter what the ups and downs of the conflict between them.
Finely crafted contemporary fiction once again, Steven Manchester – a MUST read that deserves the widest possible audience!