Monday, August 30, 2010

ASHES TO WATER - Irene Ziegler

FIRST LINE: "Damp and heavy-limbed, nine-year-old Annie Bartlett jerked awake beneath her father's chin."

Annie Bartlett is estranged from her father when she receives the call telling her he has been murdered by his girlfriend. So Annie and her drug-addict sister, Leigh, return to their hometown to take care of their father's final arrangements. Annie only plans to be gone a few days, but when she arrives in DeLeon, Florida, Annie finds a web of secrets and lies that snare her and force her to confront both her past and the present.

ASHES TO WATER is a dark look at the tragic effects of secrets. When you discover those you trust most have used you through lies and deception. And those lies have altered your own perception of reality, the discovery is earth-shattering. Annie Bartlett experiences such a life-changing discovery and Ziegler does an excellent job of illustrating her devastation, loss and identity struggle.

Another strength of ASHES TO WATER is Ziegler's depiction of the small town: its array of colorful characters, the relationships between factions as well as individuals, and the effects of secrets - or lack thereof - in a small town. This complexity spills over in the plot as events mesh and intertwine. As the plot unfolds a whole new picture of the small town emerges. Perception and reality can often be vastly different pictures. When Annie learns her perceptions don't match reality, she questions exactly who she is because she's defined herself by those distorted perceptions.

While the focus of the novel is Annie, the strength of the supporting characters play a large role in the richness of the novel as well. Leigh, Annie's older sister, is caught in a web of her own. She's running from her violent and abusive drug supplier because she stole money from him. Leigh had approached her father before his death about helping her into a drug rehab program. She wants to clean herself up but still employs the deceptive, manipulative behaviors of a drug addict. Camp is Annie's fiance. He's in a constant struggle between his feelings for Annie and his devotion to his young daughter, who is manipulated by her mother, Camp's ex-wife. There is a strong irony here as we slowly learn about Annie's manipulation from her own mother. The interplay between all the characters is complex and intricately woven. 

There was one event toward the end of the novel that I thought would be highly unlikely to happen. I can't say that it would be impossible, but it was definitely unusual. The event was necessary for the final outcome of the book, so that may sit a little uneasy with some readers. Overall, however, this is a thought-provoking novel inhabited by dynamic characters in a well-developed setting.

My post is a part of Irene Ziegler's blog tour with TLC Book Tours. You can find additional reviews of ASHES TO WATER here. ASHES TO WATER is available from Five Star Publishing in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1-59414-860-6).

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Irene Ziegler August 30, 2010 at 10:23 AM  

Thank you, Jen, for sharing this thoughtful and well-written review of my book with your followers. It's very hard for a first novelist to find a readership. I was particularly interested in your review because I know you read a lot of mystery/thrillers, and I'm so pleased you feel mine holds up. Well, except for that thing at the end; I'll have to DM you about that :) I'm truly grateful to you and your time and for doing for me what you do so well. Best wishes to you and your important work. Irene Ziegler

Heather J. @ TLC Books September 1, 2010 at 7:42 PM  

I can't imagine finding out that the life I have was built on lies - what a devastating revelation that would be! Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm glad you enjoyed the book despite your issue with the ending. :)

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