Below is a summary of each chapter thus far of Ashes to Asheville. You can read all the chapters here.
Chapter 1: Merry Christmas. On Christmas morning, 2015, Tammy Dulton, a recently unemployed junior college art teacher and mother of two children (Kevin and Jill, both of whom are in college), is informed by Ryan, her husband of twenty-two years, that he is leaving her for Shannon, a 25-year-old assistant at his job. They have a scene, and Ryan leaves the house.
Chapter 2: Bones like putty. Shocked and grieved by Ryan’s abandonment of her, Tammy calls first her mother, and then her sister. They prove, each in her own way, something less than helpful.
Chapter 3: Asheville calling. As he does every year, Tammy’s half-brother, Charlie, phones to wish Tammy a merry Christmas. When he learns what Ryan has done, he invites Tammy to leave her home in San Diego and come live with him and his partner, Todd, in their home in West Asheville. Tammy demurs; Charlie recounts how, back when he was a teenager and was kicked out of his house for being gay, she took him in. By way of finally convincing her to move to Asheville, Charlie brings up a particular bar in Asheville that Tammy knows. That does the trick.
Chapter 4: The French Broad. Tammy drives across the country. On her first morning in Asheville, she goes out for a walk. She ends up on the Haywood Road bridge overlooking the French Broad River. There she has a moment that paralyzes her.
Chapter 5: Tripping. Back at Charlie’s place, Tammy, who is upset, tries calling Ryan, thinking that she might right what’s gone wrong between them. She fails to reach him on the phone. Ill-advisedly enough, she goes on Facebook, where she searches for Shannon, the girl for whom her husband left her. On Shannon’s FB profile she finds pictures of bikini-sporting Shannon and Ryan clearly enjoying good times together. Hours later, Charlie comes home, wakes Tammy up, and tells her it’s New Year’s Eve.
Chapter 6: To Art. Tammy goes with Charlie to the New Year’s Eve celebration thrown at Top of the Monk, a crafts cocktail bar in downtown Asheville. There she meets Maggie, the sister of restauranteur Todd (the partner of Charlie), and her friend, Samantha, who goes by Sam. Maggie is a yoga instructor who also has a pottery studio in the River Arts District; Sam is a singer-songwriter who also runs an organic farm (and also built her own mountain home). Tammy, a painter, is impressed and a little intimidated by her new young friends. But finally she is inspired to believe that maybe her life—maybe her new life in Asheville—could be something more, and maybe something a lot more—than it has been.
Chapter 7: Walk-a-Mile. Tammy participates in Walk a Mile, a fundraiser for Our Voice, Asheville’s non-profit organization dedicated to providing services and support to the victims of sexual violence. (Both Maggie and Sam volunteer for Our Voice.) The event (which really did take place on May 7, the Saturday before the Thursday on which this chapter was published) proves a deeply emotional experience for Tammy, as it triggers memories of the time, back in college, when she was raped by a young man she greatly admired.
Chapter 8: HB2 and Barbecue. Charlie invites Tammy to come with him to 12 Bones, a popular barbecue joint in Asheville. He’s meeting there, for her birthday, Donna, a young transgender woman. After their dinner, Donna tells Charlie and Tammy that she wants to go home so she can pee; the recent HB2 ruling has left her very uncomfortable using public restrooms. After Donna leaves, Charlie sees that she was likely being given the stink-eye by Frank Spruce, the powerful pastor of a local Baptist mega-church who is also dining in the eatery. When the pastor gets up to use the restroom, Charlie confronts him. They have a scene. The owner of 12 Bones asks the pastor to leave. Tammy runs outside to see if she can still catch Donna. She almost does, but not quite.
Chapter 9: The Ex Calls. As Charlie is phoning Donna to come back to 12 Bones, Tammy gets a call. It’s Ryan. He asks for more time before he and Tammy formalize their divorce; he hints that he’s not even sure he wants a divorce. Tammy agrees to give him more time.
Chapter 10: Charlie’s Coming Out Story. After her phone conversation with Ryan, Tammy feels the inevitability of her returning to him. She realizes, though, that her reasons for wanting to return to him aren’t healthy. Meanwhile, Donna has returned to 12 Bones, and she, Charlie, and Tammy have a beer on one of the picnic tables outside the restaurant. Tammy asks Donna how she got the bravery to be who she truly is. And then Charlie tells his coming out story, which is uniquely painful.
Chapter 11: The Brevard Blues Festival. The Brevard Blues Festival is a real event that took place on June 4th, the Saturday before the Thursday on which this chapter was published. While at the festival, Tammy discovers that Ryan didn’t need more time to figure out how he felt about getting divorced from her. He needed more time to hide his financial assets and drain their shared bank accounts—which he did, leaving Tammy penniless. Immediately after doing that, Ryan took Shannon, Kevin and Jill to Hawaii.
Chapter 12: Until She’d Screamed Enough. Still at the Brevard Blues Festival, Tammy listens, hard, to The Blind Boys of Alabama. She next listens, and dances to, Bettye LaVette—which proves quite the experience for her. A group of men descends upon the dance floor. Tammy, beside herself with anger at the men, leaves the festival. While driving home, she is so overwhelmed by the reality of how men are allowed, and have always been allowed, to treat women—and then how she herself has been treated by certain key men in her life—that she pulls over to the side of the road. She has a moment.
Chapter 13: Before Charlie Goes to Pulse in Orlando. In Chapter 11, we learn that the reason Charlie didn’t go with Tammy was because he was on a business trip in Florida. Specifically, he was in Orlando—where, on Saturday, June 11, he attends a party. Later that night many guests of the party go dancing at Pulse. Charlie goes with them.
Chapter 14: Drowning at the All Go West Music Fest. Charlie ventures outside for the first time since returning to his home after that terrible night in Orlando. Alone, he attends the All Go West Music Festival held in Asheville on Saturday, June 25. It doesn’t go well for him. As he is literally sinking to the ground he gets a text message from Todd asking him to return home right away.
Chapter 15: Independence Day. Meltingly hot and exhausted from another week of unsuccessful job-hunting, Tammy steps into the Asheville Art Museum. She is moved by some art she hadn’t expected to be. Back home and painting, she is invited by her friend Samantha to come downtown for the big 4th of July celebration. Driving on the Haywood Road Bridge over the French Broad River, Tammy pulls over, walks halfway back across the bridge, has a moment, and then starts running back to her car.
Chapter 16: Wine and Netflix. Tammy returns home, throws out the paintings on which she had been working, and begins painting something unlike anything she’s ever done. She’s been working on the painting for a week when Charlie calls. He’s in Boston, with Todd and Maggie, at the home of their father, Frank Lyon, who has suffered a stroke. They have planned to have Frank come to Asheville to live with Charlie and Todd. Tammy asks if she can take care of Frank, since she doesn’t have a job and wants to earn her keep at Charlie’s. Reluctantly, Charlie agrees to ask Todd and Maggie about her offer. After her talk with Charlie, Tammy, rather than return to her painting, takes a bottle of wine out of her refrigerator, and heads upstairs to watch Netflix on Charlie’s big TV.
Chapter 17: Love at The Wedge. Over a beer at the Wedge, a popular Asheville brewery, Maggie shares her feelings with Tammy about seeing her father in Boston after his stroke. She then tells Tammy about Kavi, a “spiritual healer” who has moved to Asheville to open a “centering center,” and with whom Maggie has fallen in love. Kavi unexpectedly arrives at the Wedge, along with his new friend, an architect named Barry. Barry and Tammy seem to hit it off.
Chapter 18: Ghostbustiers? Having just seen it, Tammy, Maggie, and Samantha talk about the movie everyone’s talking about. Returning home, Tammy finds an ambulance outside of Charlie’s house.
Chapter 19: Parenting the Parent (Apparently). While Tammy, Samantha and Maggie were at the movies, Maggie and Todd’s father, Frank, was moving into Charlie and Todd’s house. Wanting a drink that Todd had refused him, Frank got in Todd’s car in order to drive to a liquor store—and immediately got in a car accident. After the scene that ensues, Tammy listens to a disturbing phone message from Laurel, a former and promising art student of hers, who says that she is coming to Asheville.
Chapter 20: She’s Being Abused. Tammy, Todd, Maggie, and Leslie, Todd and Maggie’s mother, meet a former student of Tammy’s, Laurel, when she drops in unexpectedly at Charlie’s house, accompanied by her boyfriend, Wyatt. After Laurel and Wyatt leave, the group worries about Laurel.
Chapter 21: It Gets Worse. Laurel and Wyatt spend two days together in a cheap, nearly abandoned motel. We learn how terribly right Tammy and her friends were to worry about Laurel.
Chapter 22: Dear Mom. Laurel escapes from Wyatt, and catches a ride to Asheville’s Family Justice Center, where her life is changed.
Chapter 23: Out of Gas. The gas shortage that struck so much of the southeast leaves Tammy in a difficult situation with Frank.
Chapter 24: The Art of the Deal. Frank tells Tammy of his plans to develop land in Asheville’s River Arts District. Tammy tries not to kill him.
Chapter 25: Why Are Men the Way Men Are? Charlie explains men to Tammy.
Chapter 26: Mint Juleps and Cicadas. Tammy, rather unexpectedly, finds herself on a date with Barry the Architect. Turns out she was ready to date after all.
Chapter 27: #EndRape Culture. Frank explains to Tammy, Maggie and Samantha why Donald Trump’s “noxious crap” was anything but locker-room talk. Tammy can’t find words for a past event that took her words away.
Chapter 28: Tammy Dulton’s Diary. “How do I stop being a mother and caretaker for others, and start being … well, ME?”
Chapter 29: The Game Begins. Tammy meets with the best divorce lawyer in Asheville. He seems to be feeling all the confidence about her situation that she isn’t.
Chapter 30: Trump, the Behaving Bear? Frank explains to Tammy and Charlie why they might want to think twice about despairing over Trump’s winning the election.
Chapter 31: Tammy’s Nightmare. Tammy has a nightmare, in which Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders make an appearance.
Chapter 32: The Rain Came. After a terrifying, months-long season of fires throughout the Southeast, some blessed relief.
Chapter 33: The Enemy. Tammy’s young friend Laurel has won herself an art show. But she’s afraid she won’t be able to step up her game. Tammy talks to her about the enemy of art.
Chapter 34: Tammy Gets a Christmas Present. Tammy is having one the worst Christmases of her life. And then she gets a phone call from her lawyer.
Chapter 35: A New Year, A New Life. Tammy isn’t sure what to do with her newfound wealth. Then, suddenly, she knows.
Chapter 36: Working in the Time of Trump. Tammy is in her new artist studio in the River Arts District. But she’s so distraught about America’s new president that she’s finding it exceedingly difficult to concentrate on her work.
Chapter 37: “That’s not trying; that’s doing.” Tammy meets three of her fellow artists who work in the same building full of studios where she, too, has taken a studio.
Chapter 38: Climate change. Todd gets a new chef gig, so he, Charlie, Tammy and Frank have a discussion about that, which doesn’t go particularly well.
Chapter 39: Whatever’s happening is happening. Charlie and Tammy at the airport, just before Charlie leaves Asheville for Los Angeles.
Chapter 40: What had she just agreed to do? Art happens. And then, sometimes, life barges right in and starts yapping at you.
Chapter 41: Showtime. For the first time in her life, Tammy is in a position to sell her paintings. She has real mixed feelings about that. During an opening at the Riverview Station art studios, she has to face those feelings.