Sunday, July 19, 2009

Review: The Embers

Summary: A once-charmed family is forced to confront the devastating tragedy that struck it years ago in this fiercely tender tale of betrayal and reconciliation

It’s the fall of 2007, and Emily Ascher should be celebrating: she just got engaged to the man she loves, her job is moving in new and fulfilling directions, and her once-rocky relationship with her mother, Laura, has finally mellowed into an easy give-and-take. But with the promise of new love

Settling into old comes a difficult look at how her family has been torn apart in the many years since her brother died. Her parents have long since divorced, and her father, Joe, a famous actor and playwright who has been paralyzed with grief since the tragedy, carries the blame for his son’s death—but what really happened on that winter night? Why has he been unable to clear his name, or even discuss that evening with Laura and Emily?


As spring looms—and with it Emily’s wedding in the Berkshires and an unveiling of Joe’s new play—each Ascher begins to reevaluate the events of long ago, finally facing the truth of his or her own culpability in them. Moving between past and present over the course of sixteen years, The Embers is a skillfully structured debut novel of buried secrets and deep regrets that crush a family while bonding its members irrevocably. -- Henry Holt


Remember a few days ago when I said that I am always on the lookout for some good summer reads? Well, I have found another great book that is just perfect for reading by the pool or on the beach. It's called THE EMBERS (an absolutely perfect title!) and it's written by Hyatt Bass. It's an intriguing story about a family who has been dealt a horrible tragedy, and I honestly could not put this book down. I was intrigued by the story and the characters, but I think the real beauty of this novel was in how the story was told.

I am definitely not alone in thinking that this book was just fabulous. People Magazine selected THE EMBERS as a "Get Ready for Summer" Pick, and Instyle Magazine chose it as a "Top 5 Beach Read for Summer 2009." It seems like everywhere I look, someone is raving about this novel.

The Ascher's are a family who seem to have it all until tragedy strikes a member of the family. THE EMBERS explores what happens to the remaining family members and how each one responds to the loss. These characters were all flawed as well as being extremely complex; and I can't begin to tell you how real they were to me. I felt their intense pain and even understood their self-destructive behaviors which came about as a result of how they handled the tragedy. As I read their story, I became so absorbed in their lives and I wanted them to find some sort of peace. I was desperately hoping that they could forgive not only each other but also themselves. These characters are bound to remain in your thoughts long after you finish reading the book.

As I mentioned earlier, I loved the story and the character development; however, the writing is this novel was really something special. Ms. Bass did a remarkable job of telling this story through a variety of very effective methods. First, she went back and forth between the present and the past extremely well. The transitions really were seamless, and the writing was so good that it appeared almost effortless. I loved how she went back in time to give clues about the tragedy as well as providing the reader additional insight into the characters and their actions. In addition to the flashbacks, Ms. Bass also gave the perspectives of each of the family members rather than focusing on just one character's viewpoint. I found this to be extremely effective because it allowed me to understand each character; and I think I became more fully involved in each of their lives. Truly, this story just unfolded beautifully -- I was caught up in these characters from the very first page until the very last.

THE EMBERS is Hyatt Bass' first novel and I'm sure hoping it is just the start to a long career of book-writing. Prior to writing THE EMBERS, Ms. Bass wrote, directed, and produced the movie "75 Degrees in July." Since I'm not much of a movie-goer, I can't speak to it; however, I'm certainly glad that she decided to write novels -- now that I can appreciate! I think THE EMBERS is a terrific debut novel, and Ms. Bass is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

As I read THE EMBERS, I thought it would make a terrific movie; and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see it go to the big screen sometime in the near future. In fact, THE EMBERS actually started out as a screenplay before Ms. Bass felt she had more freedom to develop the characters in the form of a novel. I'm already very curious to see who would be casted as the central characters. Instyle Magazine mentioned Jack Nicholson, Angelica Huston, and Liv Tyler as their ideal cast, and I have to say that I can certainly see them in these roles.

I think THE EMBERS would make a wonderful book club discussion book. There are few things more interesting than delving into the dynamics of a troubled family. Plus, this novel really made me think. Some of the issues that kept running through my mind and that I'd love to talk about with friends include: grief, redemption, family dynamics, loss and love. There is a reading group guide available which includes some thought-provoking discussion questions, along with some praise for the book and an excellent Q&A with Hyatt Bass. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ms. Bass' interview answers, and they definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the novel.

Check out the trailer for this book:



A huge thanks to the author and the publisher for sending me a copy of this wonderful book.

17 comments:

Beth F said...

Great review. I bet this is a good match for me.

ANovelMenagerie said...

MAN O MAN do I want to read this one!

DCMetroreader said...

Thanks for the wonderful review! Sounds like a book that I will ponder long after finishing it -- my favorite kind of read. I will put this on my to be read list.

bermudaonion said...

I want to read this book after that review. It sounds fantastic!

Kelly @ The Novel Bookworm said...

Hmm.. I passed on this one, because I thought it sounded kind of depressing. Now I'm regretting that decision! Great review!

Anna said...

Sounds like a book I'd enjoy. Thanks for the review.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

trishalynn0708 said...

Hi, you have an award at my blog. :)

Sheila DeChantal said...

I am going to check this out and maybe recommend it for book club. You reviewed it so well now you have me on Amazon checking it out. :)

Mash1195 said...

What a great review of The Embers. Have put in on my TBR list. Have also signed up for your news letter so I don't miss out on future reviews.

kalea_kane said...

What a wonderful review! How interesting that it started out as a screenplay! Thank you for sharing!

Vicki said...

I've never heard of this book, but since reading your review it's going on my TBR list! It sounds very good!!

I have an award for you HERE

Stephanie said...

I really want to read this book (and absolutely LOVE the book cover). Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

Michelle said...

I just added another book to my pile it seems :)

This sounds like a great emotional story with loads of character development. I like it!

Ti said...

I had not heard of this one prior to your lovely review but it really sounds like something I would enjoy.

Jenners said...

I read and reviewed this one a little while back ... I enjoyed it as well (though "enjoyed" seems like a strong word as it isn't a totally HAPPY book.) Great review ... and I can see it as a movie too!

Tam @ Bailey's and Books said...

Great review, and now another book to add to the ever growing TBR pile.

Serena said...

sounds like a good book. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I particularly like the title of this one.