Ashes: Seeds of America

Written by Laurie Halse Anderson
Review by Meg Wiviott

This story, third in the Seeds of America series, picks up in June 1781 with escaped slaves Isabel and Curzon in South Carolina. It has been four years since we left them in Forge, but their determined search for Isabel’s younger sister, Ruth, continues. Ruth is finally found on a plantation in South Carolina. The sisters’ reunion is not as joyful as Isabel has hoped. Ruth only agrees to go north if accompanied by her friend Aberdeen. Ruth’s contrariness towards Isabel and Aberdeen’s allegiance to the Loyalists add challenges to their already arduous goal of freedom and returning home to Rhode Island. All four characters make their stand in Yorktown, deciding where their deepest loyalties lie. Anderson provides an inevitable yet satisfying conclusion to this trilogy.

This story is set during the American Revolution, but it is not a story about the American Revolution. It is a tiny slice of that conflict filled with adventure, danger, romance and truth. The novel asks huge questions—What is freedom? What is loyalty? What is worth fighting for?—of its characters and readers, and does not water down the horror or contradictions of war. Anderson’s honesty is admirable. The appendix and list of vocabulary words offer context and clarification for readers seeking more information. Having read Ashes within days of finishing Forge, I found it difficult to accept that Isabel questioned Curzon’s affection and loyalty, but that is my only complaint. Isabel is prickly, bitter, stubborn, and riddled with self-doubt; and she has every reason to be. She is also dedicated and determined. She’s as complex as any human should be. It was a delight to join her and Curzon on their quest.