Ashes to Asheville - Sarah Dooley

After Mama Lacy's death, Fella was forced to move in with her grandmother, Mrs. Madison. The move brought Fella all sorts of comforts she wasn't used to at home, but it also meant saying goodbye to her sister Zoey (a.k.a. Zany) and her other mother, Mama Shannon. Though Mama Shannon fought hard to keep Fella, it was no use. Already heartbroken, Fella soon finds herself alone in Mrs. Madison's house, grieving both the death of her mother and the loss of her entire family. Then one night, Zany shows up at Mrs. Madison's house determined to fulfill Mama Lacy's dying wish: to have her ashes spread over the lawn of the last place they were all happy as a family. Of course, this means stealing Mama Lacy's ashes and driving hundreds of miles in the middle of night to Asheville, North Carolina. Their adventure takes one disastrous turn after another, but their impulsive journey helps them rediscover the bonds that truly make them sisters.

This short but deep story of two sisters on a tumultuous road trip will give you a lot more of THE FEELS than you might first expect. Though the events are somewhat outrageous from time to time (some might even say melodramatic), the emotional core of the book is what really matters and what will keep readers engaged. 

Fella and Zany are in many ways your typical, argumentative sisters who just can't seem to get along. In this case, they yell at each other, insult each other, and blame each other for a good portion of the road trip to Asheville. And yet through the process of stalling a car, stealing a truck, taking their dog to an emergency vet clinic, and befriending a young man in need of moral support as he visits his dying father, the girls manage to work together and eventually even find a way to support each other.

Through the road trip and the drama, readers are given the opportunity to better understand the history of marriage equality in America and the dilemmas inherent in having children as a same-sex couple. At the heart of this novel is the theme of chosen families. Dooley's book shows the powerful connections that come from being in a chosen family and the tenuousness of living with blood relatives who don't "agree" with same-sex marriage.

Though some of the events in the book are a bit far-fetched for me, they will appeal to younger readers and will provide a lot of food for thought!

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