"Right before my sister, Zany, steals our dead mother off the mantel, I'm trying to decide which sock to stuff in Haberdashery's mouth to shut him up."
Following this zinger of a first sentence, Ashes to Asheville takes the ball (or urn, in this case) and keeps on running. Twelve-year-old Fella and her 16-year-old sister, Zany, had a normal, loving family in Asheville, N.C., with their birth mothers Mama Lacy (Fella) and Mama Shannon (Zany). But then Mama Lacy developed cancer and the family moved to West Virginia to be closer to the girls' grandparents, even though Mrs. Madison, Mama Lacy's straight-laced mother, never approved of " 'that woman' Mama Lacy took up with." In the grieving "craziness" that follows Mama Lacy's death, Mrs. Madison gains custody of Fella, taking her away from Zany and Mama Shannon. Mrs. Madison also gains custody of the urn with her daughter's remains, in spite of the fact that Mama Lacy wanted her ashes spread near the family's old Asheville home. Willful Zany decides it's up to her to carry out their mother's wishes... in the middle of the night... in a car borrowed from a sleeping Mama Shannon. What follows is a nightlong escapade of epic proportions, populated by a reluctantly useful thief named Adam, a yapping stowaway dog called Haberdashery, and a whole lot of Mountain Dew and coffee.
In her exquisite, poignant novel, Sarah Dooley (Free Verse; Body of Water) explores the strange places grief takes people when, as in Fella's case, they have to learn "how to accept that somebody could die and be gone when I wasn't finished loving them yet." --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor