Summary: Director, producer and screenwriter Bass creates a riveting narrative that digs into the notion that there is nothing that happens to a child that does not implicate the parent in some way. Emily Ascher is planning her wedding at the site of her Berkshires childhood family vacation home, on the very hillside where the ashes of her brother, Thomas, are scattered. Alternating between present day and the past, Emily's story, along with that of her divorced parents, Joe and Laura, unfolds along with the circumstances surrounding Thomas's death. Joe, a once famous actor and playwright, is now consumed by a desire to create and equally consumed by his inability to do so, while Laura, now remarried, still carries the emotional scars of a rocky first marriage and the inability to truly understand or successfully communicate with her daughter. Bass creates a large window into the workings of the Ascher family, exposing how small slights or seemingly minute actions ripple with consequence. Bass's excavation of a complex familial labyrinth is an elegant testament to the beautiful mess that is family. ~amazon.com
Julie's Review: I think most of us can agree that at some point in our lives we've been messed up by our families. The Embers by Hyatt Bass is one families journey on this road. It flashes back between 1993, 1995 and 2007 and told by 3 differing points of view in the family. None of the characters, Emily, Laura and Joe are particularly likable but they aren't so flawed that you hate them. Basically, they are human and flawed. The character I enjoyed the most was Thomas and we only get know him through the other members of the family. He's the most selfless of them all. Joe is an aging actor and playwright who is searching for his last hurrah. He's got writers block throughout most of the novel until the last 50 pages when he has an epiphany. My only problem is, we never see that epiphany come to fruition. He's also very self-centered and narcissistic, which is a bit of a stereotype but probably an accurate one.
Emily, is the daughter of Joe and Laura. In her youth she was reckless and didn't care what other people thought. As an adult, she's reserved and cares what other people think. When she was a kid, she was extremely close to her dad but when her parents started having problems, she shut him out. Emily also thinks that everything her mom says to or does for her is Laura trying to control her life. I think Thomas' death had the most profound affect on Emily. She is essentially living her life how she thinks Thomas would have lived his. Emily does grow a bit by the end of the novel, but will still need to figure out who she truly is.
Laura, is standoffish and an introvert. She's always doubting herself and her capabilities. This doesn't bode well for her marriage to Joe, who definitely knows who he is and what he wants. I feel that Laura blames Joe for some of the decisions she's made, but we all have our own minds. I didn't like her or hate her, she was just the least underdeveloped character in my opinion.
How do families survive a tragedy? Some pull together and some fall apart. This is the Ascher's story. I also like the Joe and Ingrid storyline. It begs some interesting questions.
If you love family dramas, then this book is for you. The way it unfolds is perfect, it keeps you guessing until you say "OH!"
Final Take: 4.5/5