This new offering from adult novelist Alice Hoffman is a haunting, beautiful post-9/11 fairy tale for our time. When Green's parents and little sister, Aurora, go to the city for the day, Green stays home to work in the garden. But disaster strikes the city. The ground shakes, people jump from buildings, the whoosh of fire can be heard across the river, and ashes sweep across the water in "black whirlwinds." Embers fly into Green's open window, set the ends of her hair on fire and burn her eyes, When looters threaten houses and it becomes clear that many people in the city have perished, Green becomes Ash. She wears her father's black boots and leather jacket. She clips thorns from bare rose bushes and sews them to her clothes. She uses black ink and a pin to tattoo a raven, a bat and a rose on her arm.
"Blood and ink. Darkness where before there had been patience, black where there'd once been green," Hoffman writes. Green's change into the girl she names Ash mirrors the darkness of her ruined world. After the disaster, everything changes. A disfigured, hooded boy she names Diamond appears, and they become friends. They garden, bake bread, cook and look after neighbors. In the magic realism of the conclusion, the inky black vines on Ash's body begin to turn green, the rose turns white, and she realizes more changes are in store for her. Metaphors of hope and renewal in the form of seasons, gardens and blank white pages that await stories signal Ash's transformation back to Green. In its images of thorns and vines, embers in eyes, and flights of ravens, Hoffman's tale has the visceral effect of a fairy tale on the reader's consciousness, more powerful than most realistic renderings of current tragedies.