Two girls, a little dog and ashes – all traveling in the middle of the night create a story that is hard to let go of. Sarah Dooley’s new book Ashes to Asheville pulled me in to the lives of these two young girls. They are dealing with loss in so many ways. There is the loss of one mother, the loss of family when one daughter must go live with her Grandmother and the loss that a family experience when society will not recognize their family as family.
During the time this book was written the world here in the US made a change that took this book from current language to a more historical piece. Gay marriage was made legal. (I worry now in our new political climate that it will once again this language and fear will become current and that right to marry for many will be lost.)
The story deals with how children feel and are treated when they have two moms. What happens when one mom dies? Dooley shares how families are creative in making their family but then comes the struggle when the legal system does not accept that family structure.
Dooley weaves a story through the eyes of Fella, the youngest, as she travels with her older sister over a night trying to reach Asheville and return home before the adults know they are gone. They are hoping to fulfill the last wish of Mama Lacy. These two face all the adventures you might expect – over heated engine, a theft who steals the ashes thinking it is a jar with money, bad weather, and a fellow late night traveler also losing a parent to death. All this craziness is dealt with using a bit of humor and yet able to pull out the loss, anger and worry that each girl feels.
This would be a great book for a read aloud to middle school students. It is rich with discussion topics but has characters you come to love and care deeply about.
It has me interested in look up a few of Sarah’s other books – Free Verse, Body of Water and Livvie Owen Lives Here.