Set partially in Vancouver, partially on a farm in rural Ontario and partially in West Africa, Sweetness from Ashes is a novel about family in its various forms. When Sheila, Jenny and Chris decide to respect a deceased relative’s wishes, and return the ashes to the family farm, the three begin a journey that takes them from their present-day lives in Vancouver to a deeper discovery of their roots and the family’s past. In Ontario, they meet their cousins and start to reconcile with a buried history. Mixed into the story is a book that Jenny is editing, a memoir of an Englishman living in the colonial Gold Coast in the 1950s. The link goes beyond the manuscript and interweaves with the Ontario family farm, and the new generation of people who have come home.
Sweetness from Ashes is a vibrant novel with a voice and perspective that is contemporary but gives a nod to the past.