Book Review: Scattering the Ashes by Paul Semendinger

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A heartfelt story about overcoming grief and learning to live again.

Book CWs

  • Alcohol
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Death (parental)

Premise (from Goodreads)

Sam Holmes is a young, enthusiastic school teacher living an uneventful, albeit pleasant life – even if he won’t admit to himself how lonely he is. Dedicated to teaching, and inspired by the kids passing through his 8th grade history class, Sam is energized by the end of the school year. Now he has the time to dedicate himself fully to training for the historic New York City Marathon – his first.

But Sam’s simple life is radically changed when his father suddenly passes away and the Last Will and Testament are read to him. Sam learns that his father’s final wishes are unique, and as such special burden has been placed solely on Sam. To earn his inheritance, Sam’s father is sending him on a quest; to travel to the places that had been significant and scatter his father’s ashes at these destinations. Now, instead of a pleasant summer, Sam is thrust into a journey he neither wanted nor asked for.

While fulfilling is father’s wishes Sam meets Rachel Parker, a young woman who brings direction, clarity, and companionship to Sam’s lonely life. As he faces the struggles of a contract dispute at work, a budding romance, and running in his first marathon, Sam Holmes must make the critical decisions that will impact the rest of his life.

Review (No Spoilers)

Thank you to Paul Semendinger and Booktasters for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

If you’ve ever read 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, Scattering the Ashes is kind of like an adult version of that. We follow Sam as he makes his way through letters that his father left for him after he passed away.

Given that this is an adult novel, I had expected Sam to be more mature than he actually was. In the beginning of the book, Sam basically falls in love with any woman he sees, to the point where I found him super creepy. He also has a lot of childish tendencies. One particular instance that comes to mind is a scene where he goes to the gym and upsets everyone around him by blasting his iPod and singing out loud. I kept mentally yelling at him to just grow up. I’m happy to say that his character does develop throughout the book and he’s much better at the end.

Something that I appreciated about this book was the subplot dedicated to Sam’s work. Because his school is going through contract disputes, Sam is forced to choose between his love of teaching/students and his duty to his fellow teachers. As a professor, this particular storyline really resonated with me. I think a lot of educators tend to think only of themselves and forget about the students they claim to want to help. I hope that more teachers will read this book and see that sometimes doing what you think is right can end up harming a lot more people than you originally thought.

My favorite part of the novel, though, was reading the letters Sam’s father left for him. They were emotional and heartfelt and I feel like they would pull on anyones heart strings. I think most people would hope to have as strong as a relationship as Sam and his father had.


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