When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.
At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.
Thrilling and profound, The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging.
Molly Dektar is from North Carolina and lives in Brooklyn. She received her MFA from Brooklyn College, where she was awarded the Himan Brown Award and the Brooklyn College Scholarship for Fiction. She is a graduate of Harvard College and was the recipient of the Louis Begley Fiction Prize, the David McCord Prize for the Arts, and the Charles Edmund Horman Prize for Creative Writing. The Ash Family is her first novel.
“In The Ash Family, the brilliant Molly Dektar explores and explodes the lines between ally and enemy, between collaboration and sabotage, between blessing and threat. Dektar evokes the irresistible beauty of the wilderness, and then exposes its ravaging harshness. This mesmerizing, terrifying book asks the hard questions: What should humankind do in the face of environmental catastrophe? Where does the individual end and the communal begin? A powerful tale by a powerful new writer.”
– Helen Phillips, author of Some Possible Solutions and The Beautiful Bureaucrat
“The Ash Family floored me. With stirring insight, nuanced emotion, and prose as beautiful as poetry, this magnificent novel delves into essential questions of need and desire, love and family, success and sacrifice. Molly Dektar is a wholly original writer, and we need her vision and voice more than ever.”
– Bret Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This
“With the magic of a born storyteller, Molly Dektar tunnels into questions of desire, obedience and freedom. The Ash Family is as sharp as it is wise.”
– Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty
"Lushly written, psychologically acute, Molly Dektar’s The Ash Family captures what it’s like to be nineteen in America now: idealistic, easy to prey on, at the mercy of forces greater than oneself. It’s a marvelous debut, riveting from start to finish."
– Joshua Henkin, author of The World Without You
"The Ash Family delivered me into a utopia on the knife’s edge—the glory of living holistically in North Carolina’s majestic wild lands, is cut with a toxic mix of narcissism and magnificently bruised characters. Dektar’s unstoppable tale of a country beyond is an addictive read so engrossing I forget where I am. I forget who I am, a surrender so sweet in her able hands."
– Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark and Mr. Splitfoot
“The Ash Family is a hauntingly beautiful and captivating novel, one that peers deep into our search for meaning, purpose, family and love in what may seem like a broken and dangerous world, a story written with such startling grace and clarity it’s hard to imagine ever looking at the natural world the same way again.”
– Dinaw Mengestu, author of How to Read the Air
“The Ash Family is a suspenseful and atmospheric exploration of escape, idealism, and community, a captivating ode to the quest for something more. Molly Dektar writes with great nimbleness and insight, and her debut novel marks the arrival of a wonderful new talent."
– Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
"[A] lyrical debut...Dektar’s deft construction of the Ash Family’s world and their environmentalist values brings a meaningful new story to the canon of cult narratives. Perfect for fans of Philip Roth's American Pastoral (1997) and the film Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene."
– Booklist (starred review)
"The novel shines in its thoughtful portrayal of cult members' (likely) complicated feelings: devotion, love, fear, desperation, and purpose. An affecting, cleareyed debut."
– Kirkus Reviews
“In her excellent debut, Dektar probes life in a cult with a masterful hand, excavating the troubled mind of a young woman who joins what she thinks is a modern-day commune…Dektar’s eloquent, often poetic prose draws readers into this disturbing, powerful novel.”