The Embers ~ Hyatt Bass
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
There is something so beautiful about the dysfunction of family. It’s certainly not a warm and fuzzy something but it certainly makes for a pretty picture or a great novel. While it is certainly a time-honored theme, the crumbling house-hold novel, Hyatt Bass has created a new and vibrant addition to the genre with her tightly knit story of a tragically unraveled family.
The Aschers are a family plagued by animosity but not without their bright spots. Their youngest member, Emily, is engaged to be married. She is a successful lawyer, and in love with her fiance. Despite her mother’s reservations, or, perhaps, because of them, she has picked the ultimate spot for her vow exchange: the family’s once fun-filled country-home in the Berkshires. While this may ring true as a reflection of any other family’s good times and happy memories, the Ascher’s land is a source and reminder of the rifts that run between mother, wife, daughter, father and husband.
As wedding plans are made, a semi-linear story is molded, jumping incongruously between a pocket of the 90’s to present-day. A young woman’s fears are pushed on her son, daughter and husband, creating lasting effect, an artist’s love of his art threatens to ruin the lives of his loved ones and two children come of age with their own dark and jaded views of commitment, love and life.
There are two different stories told in The Embers, one of how the past became the present and the other of how the present will become the future. Within those two macro stories, there are micro threads that run through, weaving in the voice of each family member. While it seems like a strange device at first, the idea of intermittently rearranging the narrator allows the short book to expand on each character emotionally in a way that usually doesn’t succeed with so many players. It never becomes confusing as each cast member is allotted his or her own distinct, unique voice.
This is not a fairytale and the men and women are certainly not princes nor are they princesses. Each is deeply flawed in his or her own way, often to the point of paralyzing self-doubt or bitter grudge harboring. This does not dampen the mood of the telling, however. For me, it made each line of thought more realistic in its flaws, rather than sugar-coating what often is in such stories.
The Embers is a fantastic little book and a wonderful debut for Hyatt Bass.