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Sweetness from Ashes by Marlyn Horsdal

Sweetness from Ashes by Marlyn HorsdalSweetness from Ashes was named one of the Best Fiction Titles of 2010 by January Magazine.

Set in Vancouver, rural Ontario and West Africa, Sweetness from Ashes is a novel about family–in various forms. When Sheila, Jenny and Chris decide to respect a deceased relative’s wishes by returning her 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. A story within the story, of an Englishman living in the colonial Gold Coast in the 1950s, links the memoir Jenny is editing to the Ontario family farm, and to 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.

Excerpt from Sweetness from Ashes

“What’s this?” Chris’s hands were scrabbling around in the bottom of the box, and he lifted out a large, old, leather-covered book.


“Oh, there it is! That’s the family Bible,” Ben explained. “I was looking for it the other day, because I thought you might like to see it, and I couldn’t think where it had got to. It’s got the record of all the Muirs since, let’s see, 1875. It starts when they were still in Scotland.” The thin paper whispered as Ben flipped gently, finally flattening out a two-page spread, and passing it to Jenny.  “Here’s our batch.”


The precise printing, in thick, rusty-black pen strokes, gave details of milestones, mostly births, marriages, and deaths. Just names and dates—no descriptions.


“Oh, no,” whispered Jenny. “Look at that. Every mention of Pat’s been crossed out.” Date of birth, first communion, partially obscured by two neatly ruled, parallel, heavy black lines.


They all stared in silence.


Sheila shivered. “The lines are so controlled. It’s almost worse than if the dates had all been scratched out in a rage.”


Ben nodded solemnly. “Granddad could be pretty icy.”


Grace shook her head gently. “Unbelievable,” she murmured, gazing at the straight lines. “I don’t see how anybody could hate his own child so much.”

About the Author

Marlyn Horsdal is a publisher, editor and writer. In 1984, she co-founded Horsdal & Schubart Publishers, and ran the company until it sold in 2002. She was educated at Queen’s University, and the London School of Economics, in London, England. She taught in Ghana as a CUSO volunteer and started a non-profit organization called Educating Girls in Africa, a scholarship program for girls at St. Louis Secondary School in Kumasi, Ghana. All royalties from the sale of this novel are donated to this cause.

Praise for Sweetness from Ashes

–A vibrant novel that begins to evolve when a death brings generations together and allows family stories to emerge. ~ Canadian Bookseller

Genealogists will love Sweetness from Ashes, Marlyn Horsdal’s ambitious novel based on a far-flung interracial family. ~ StoryCircleBookReviews.org

–Sweetness from Ashes is a confident and accomplished debut. ~ January Magazine

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Posted by Pearl on Mar 9 2011. Filed under Fiction. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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1 Comment for “Sweetness from Ashes by Marlyn Horsdal”

  1. The intrigue is in the question WHY would or how could hate his own child so much?? Now I want to read the book .. maybe it’s not hate at all but love someone so deeply that when they are gone you have to completely forget them, as though they never existed ? The Cause is great as well to help those who have nothing is amazing..

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