A Stepmother. An Orphan. Fairies. A Curse. An Agreement. A Huntress. An Eligible Prince. Choices.
Ash by Malinda Lo takes the basic story of Cinderella and gives it some major twists. While this young adult novel is popularly considered a lesbian love story, it can also be interpreted metaphorically as a young woman claiming the power of her inner feminine — think Carl Jung.
Briefly, twelve year old Ash loses her mother after a very brief illness. Ash is devastated and spends long periods of time sitting and lying on her mother’s grave. During some of these episodes, Ash becomes aware of a fairy world, a world that her father and popular society now deny. One of the male fairies takes a special interest in Ash. Her father soon remarries a woman with two daughters. After Ash’s father dies, her stepmother claims that he left a huge pile of debts. In order for Ash to pay off the debts, she must work as a servant to her cruel stepmother. One of the twists is that the King usually has a Huntress. At a party where Ash is excluded, the current Huntress is one of the few people to recognize Ash and her pain. Later,a new Huntress and Ash experience numerous coincidental meetings. At the end of the story, Ash must make a life changing choice.
Although Ash is aimed at the young adult audience, it also spoke to me as a middle-aged adult. It poignantly describes the longing I have felt for the people in my life who have died. It describes surrendering to the conditions in our lives and then rising above them. It describes love. This is a lovely fairytale, and I hope that people don’t avoid it because of any labels attached to it.