Ashes: Steven Manchester
Like a piece of blown glass or an expensive piece of delicate china which are fragile and often broken with the slightest touch, so are relationships, family ties and child’s hearts are they all suffer, are torn apart or easily destroyed. Within this novel you will hear three very distinct and different voices and interpretations about a man who called himself father but in reality he was anything but. Stuart Prendergast was a monster. No other words can describe him. Creating dissention, hate and discord in his family by berating his wife, acting vicious and cruel to his sons Jason and Tom and alienating them from each other. Lies, deceits, betrayals and hate were at the core of their relationship. Each one living their lives apart yet in their own private vacuum of loneliness. As the story opens we learn that Stuart has died which does not bring any tears to the eyes of either one of them and that before they can inherit whatever he left, if anything at all, they are to complete and honor his final request. Entering the lawyer’s office and seeing each other brought out their own type of wrath for each other but learning that they have no choice but to go across many states and many cities in one car, together enduring each other’s company in order to learn what was inside a sealed envelope that their father left for them. But, will they endure each other’s words and actions? Will what they find out at the end be worth what they endure? As the lawyer lays out the terms they have no choice but to accept the challenge you might say as they work out the logistics, determine how they will travel, who will drive and when and as they begin their journey and their words of discord and hate ring true, you the reader along with this reviewer will see some startling changes, hear about the pasts, listen to the words of their father as they both hope to finally come to grips with their own lives, their own identities and realize that families matter as they travel with their father’s ashes in an Urn. Flashbacks to their pasts when both remember incidents but in a different way as Tom had to use the bathroom and his father would not stop and the end result was humiliation. Thoughts of their mother were reflected as each one lost themselves in their own dream worlds and one incident where Jason was made to beat up his brother because his father wanted to humiliate Tom and make him feel like a wimp. With the cruelties they both endured neither has a great self-image as Tom’s children need to be reminded to communicate with him and Jason’s daughter seems self-absorbed in her wedding and getting him to pay for it all. But, both seem to have identity issues and each one cannot seem to realize that they both Tom as a professor and Jason as a corrections officer have much to offer to each other. Added in Tom is more schooled in the finer places, restaurants and culture where Jason has a gambling problem and prefers junk and fast food. The insults, the banter, the fuses that almost blow the past coming into the present and the only thing at first that connects them are The Ashes that they are carrying but not the person who they belong too.
The trip takes on a different tone as both Tom and Jason encounter different reactions to someone on the road that is hurt and why Jason wants to call for help and their discussion of illnesses and the fact that both are suffering from the same thing and yet all though they appear to be different in many respects they are the same. Each one fighting his own demons involving their families and their children’s welfare and lives. With Jason paying for Miranda’s wedding and recounting the short fifteen minutes with a judge who could care less. As Tom recounts his life with Carmen who seems to be fading slowly out of his picture and he might wonder what he will find when he returns home. This trip is enlightening to him as it is to many who will read this and identify with either Tom or Jason or have ever had a falling out with a family member and might realize before it’s too late that you need to settle your differences but can Tom and Jason. Author Steven Manchester digs deep into the relationship between these two brothers who are finally finding out more about themselves as well as sharing their vocations as Jason and Tom banter about the death penalty, the pros and cons as Jason explains it in detail.
Each step of the way they began looking at their lives, thinking about the reasons why they separated from each other and the manipulative father that pitted them against each other for his own pleasure. But, the saddest part is losing their mother but when they get to the address in the letter what they learn and find out will stun and surprise readers. How would you react to learn that your father made sure you grew up without a mother? What would you do when you find out that some things are too late? There are startling revelations made by both Jason and Tom. Some are life changing while others possibly even more tragic. Can two brothers who know very little about each other ever find their way back to each other? When the author flashes back to a harsh reality about what happens when Tom has to rat out Jason to their father and then Jason retaliates by making him draw a wrong conclusion, how do you forgive something you had no control over? Forgiveness, betrayals, lies, deceits, manipulations, abuse both verbal and physical and a father who does not deserve to even be remembered. When they finally carry out his wishes you won’t believe where they sprinkle his ashes and his final resting place just might be their first way to bond if possible. Revealing their secrets about how they feel about their children, their marriages and finally Jason coming to terms with his daughter’s wedding and his feelings about his job and possibly changing course, this final step might change it not only for him but for Tom. An ending that will renew your faith in family, love and loyalty and one that I hope will make every reader and everyone understand that before it’s too late and before you can no longer forgive if you are on the outs with someone you truly care about talk before it’s too late.
How do you grow up in a home where you had to fight to survive and someone preyed upon your weaknesses that wanted total control and reveled in your misery and shame? When your own wife betrays you and your children fade into the distance and yet someone else has to come to terms with his future and realize that making a difference in the lives of young teens and young adults is more important than high salaries in a job that is thankless and requires you to go against your own grain to survive how do you come to terms with that?
A powerful story, a powerful and heartfelt ending that allows readers to know that sometimes ending are new beginnings. Where will Tom and Jason wind up and will they ever learn to forgive the past and start over in the future? Will Tom realize that Carmine is wrong for him and will his children ever see the light and remember they have a father who cares? What about Jason will strong arming criminals and being a tough corrections officers be his fate or will he change and move on to something more meaningful? There are so many ways to reconcile differences but first both Tom and Jason have to come to terms with the person who has destroyed their spirits, created their dissension, demeaned them both when it suited him and read a letter from the grave of a man who claimed he was doing his best yet all that is truly left of him is the one thing that might bring them together ASHES!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine