Monday, April 1, 2024

#Bookreview of Ashes at Woodstock: The Ryan Darcy Journals

Ashes at Woodstock: The Ryan Darcy Journals

By: Melanie Sovran Wolfe
Publisher: Ink444
Publication Date: November 27, 2024
ISBN: 979-8870116112
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: March 28, 2024
Ashes at Woodstock is a touching novel that evokes layers of sophisticated sentiments, making it a satisfying and emotionally intelligent read. Acclaimed author Melanie Sovran Wolfe has written several novels that confront socially urgent issues, and this novel showcases her talents as a gifted storyteller who can deliver a realistic tale that is psychologically deep and compassionate.
Ashes at Woodstock tells the story of Ryan Darcy, a young man in his early twenties, who is slated to inherit a mind-blowing fortune, but the stipulations of his grandmother’s will require that he must first prove himself worthy. He starts out as an arrogant, angry womanizer with an alcohol addiction and an inability to express his true feelings. The first scene shows Ryan, anxious, in a lawyer’s office, listening to Barbara Darcy’s (his late grandmother) will being read. Those present include Ryan, the only grandson, and Barb’s three closest friends—Maggie, Cathy, and Debra.
According to Barbara Darcy’s will, each friend will inherit a million dollars, or more in some cases, if the three old women, with Ryan, drive “Ethel,”—Barbara’s 1967 Volkswagen Bus—from their home in Oklahoma to Bethel, New York where they once attended the famous Woodstock music festival in 1969. Once they arrive, there is a particular tree where Barbara wishes them to spread her ashes. Maggie, Cathy, and Debra, all of whom were activists in the 1960s, are thrilled about this adventure. Ryan Darcy, on the other hand, reacts with bewilderment and anger. He feels he deserves his fortune immediately, but he won’t get it for some years to come, because after this road trip with these three elderly women, he is required to find himself, to get on a life path with some purpose beyond partying.
Along the road, his grandmother’s friends try talking sense into Ryan, and relationships grow more dynamic when the traveling group stops along the way to pick up Luke, Cathy’s grandson who is an artist, and Chelsea, Maggie’s granddaughter who will be a freshman at Oklahoma University in the Fall. Now it’s become a multi-generational road trip, with precious revelations surrounding musical tastes, senses of humor, and indulgences in fun and frolic.
They get into serious discussions about double standards against women, and Ryan points out double standards that are in women’s favor; for instance, women are able to freely express their emotions while men hold them in. At a critical point in the narrative, Ryan and Chelsea start to trust one another with deep secrets, and Ryan’s character grows more sympathetic; readers even start rooting for him after an unfortunate event forces a hospital visit.
Ryan and Chelsea do share moments of fun and flirtation and soon enough the story has an added layer of romance. It turns out this is not just any road trip, but a shared journey that probes the ways youth and old age cope with trauma, abuse, illness, and grief. This excellent novel confronts this question: what will people learn about how to cope with difficulties while leaning on support that reaches across generational divides?
Quill says: Ashes at Woodstock brings the reader along on a thought-provoking journey that contrasts nostalgic reminiscence with forward thinking, giving readers a fulfilling experience and demonstrating how novels can nourish emotional intelligence.
For more information about Ashes at Woodstock: The Ryan Darcy Journals, please visit the author's website at:

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