Title: Of Ashes and Dust by Marc Graham
Genre: Currently #54444 in Best Seller’s Rank in Books, Literature & Fiction, Literary (Historical)
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Publication Date: March 2017
Of Ashes and Dust – Cover conveys roughly the subject of the second half of the book.
In this debut novel by Marc Graham, he has created a heart-rending, soul-searching story of a man reflecting on his life as it literally ebbs away.
Of Ashes and Dust follows James (JD, or Jade) Robbins as the son of a poor sharecropper, more comfortable with the Negro slaves in the fields of Arkansas in 1846 than that of his close, but upper class landowners.
Growing into his teen years, he falls hopelessly in love with the daughter of the owner of the land on which his family works, and gives his heart and soul to her, pledging his undying devotion until they are split by the Civil War. He is forced to leave his family and his love, finally changing from a beautiful, passionate young man into a world weary, combat wounded veteran. The emotionally charged descriptions of the Civil War battles stab at the heart and cries with the protagonist, until he is finally mustered out to heal and rejoin his love. But things have tragically changed back home as well.
Graham poignantly paints a deeply ravaged person mourning the loss of his soul mate to another, reducing the reader to helpless tears.
Seeking to leave that grief behind, Jim Robbins finds work and leaves the state with his buddy Dave to join the railroad expansion effort toward the west. He and Dave continue their work toward the Pacific after they successfully join the rails at Promontory Point.
The author provides rich descriptive detail of the struggle laying the rail west with unerring historical accuracy, the interaction and tragedy of confronting native peoples, and the immigrant Chinese working the railroad; human lives deemed expendable. It is out west that Robbins eventually finds another love with whom he believes he can share a mutual passion and life philosophy, but it seems that Robbins is again to be denied an enduring love. Dave forces him to go on and together they sail for Australia to help complete railroad construction there.
The characters are fleshed out so well, you ache to have them somehow survive–where is my “happy ever after?” Jim Robbins is immensely empathetic. The dialogue is so natural; the author might have taken it from civil war reports or newspaper accounts along the way.
This story grabs you by the collar from the beginning, and inexorably builds upon itself until, while you know what is going to happen, don’t know exactly how until the end…and then it’s soul crushing. Sometimes you read a book that stays with you after “the End.” This is one of those.
I was given the book in exchange for an honest review. It is packed with intense sensitivity, love, power, loss, regret, and triumph. Recommended for anyone interested in a book that won’t let you go.
Rosepoint Publishing: Five of Five Stars
The Author: Marc Graham is an “actor, singer, bard, engineer, Freemason, and whisky aficionado.” If he is not actively hiking the Colorado’s Front Range with his wife and dog, he is either on his computer or on the stage. ©2017 Virginia Williams