Ash Falls

In the beautifully rendered opening of Warren Read's Ash Falls, Ernie Luntz escapes into the Washington mountains after an accident during a prison transport. The brilliance of Read's first novel is that Ernie's getaway acts as the opening of a window--one that provides a view of Ash Falls, the town Ernie left behind when convicted. Read provides a kaleidoscopic look into the lives of small-town denizens--including those of Ernie's ex-wife and son--altered by interpersonal histories, dysfunction and one particular moment of violence.

A series of streamlined, interconnected vignettes, the chapters examine a number of long-time residents as word of Ernie's escape spreads. The main focus is not on him, however, as each individual has a distinctive connection to the others and the events that led to Ernie's crime.

What begins as prose that dangles on the precipice of over-descriptive becomes, as Read and his readers get into the flow of the novel, a stunning display of grit made alluring. A boy running his hands over grass is "caressing the fur of a giant beast"; a rundown neighborhood is inhabited by "people pushing grocery carts where there were no grocery stores"; and a mother's disappointment in her son is gut-wrenchingly defined by the items displayed, and missing from, the front of her refrigerator. Both beautiful and stark, Ash Falls is a slice-of-life portrait that gives color to the grayest of times. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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