Why This Book
The publisher of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, written in 2017 by Cherise Wolas, emailed me late last year to see if I’d be interested in reading the novel. I accepted the challenge and put it on my TBR, agreeing to read within the next few months. As I was cleaning out my TBR, I noticed this was still sitting in my queue, hence it became one of my first reads in 2018.
Plot, Characters & Setting
Joan Ashby as a young girl wanted to be a writer. She wrote all the time, publishing her first book by 23 to rave reviews. She even had a list of things to do, which included never to fall in love or have a family. Writing was all she ever wanted until she met a man, fell in love, married and had a child. Then a second. Even though she and her husband had agreed – no children! The book chronicles her life from about 23 to 53, covering the growth and maturity of herself and her two children, including the ups and downs of her relationship with the husband. Set in various cities between the US and India, Joan raises her family, writes and travels, all trying to find herself and be the best woman she can be. She meets many influential women who help organize her life and path, deals with devastating actions from each of her family members, and learns how to deal with something always stepping in the way of her success. It’s literary fiction — a true novel that will make you think about personal choices, giving up things for others and understanding when it’s okay to be selfish.
Approach & Style
I read a physical copy of this ~550 page book over the course of 4 days, a majority of it on two 2-hour train rides near NYC where I live. There are ~50 chapters, each between 10 and 15 pages long, telling the story in third person POV. This is not your typical novel in that it only follows around the main characters; instead, it is two different books within one novel. Approximately 2/3 of the novel, ~ 350 pages, are the story of Joan Ashby’s life, but the other ~200 pages are short stories or sections of various novels that the author Joan Ashby has written throughout her career; these stories provide deeper layers into her thoughts and relationships, as she often tells the story of her own life through other characters. To be honest, while some of the stories were helpful, having ~200 pages of this book dedicated to that style was way too much. I found myself skimming those sections all too often, understanding I might have missed a few key points of the overall novel, but happier to focus on one drama at a time!
The story is simple, yet full of complexity and intensity. Joan’s approach to life, her internal thoughts and what she actually says and does, vary distinctly and vastly. This is the greatest strength of the novel — a woman readers will identify with, but also get angry with. Choices are presented in a light and casual manner, yet all the ramifications are immense.
Her sons are painted with a beautiful set of images and words. They are real, but they feel so far away. You want to hug them one moment, then cover their heads with a pillow case and smother them the next. BTW… it’s an expression — I’m not advocating this as a method to handle people you don’t particularly like at any given moment. And for the sake of irony, I’m writing this as if I were thinking exactly like Joan. It is my life/review to do what I will. LOL
On a more serious note, it’s spectacular when it’s spectacular, which is at least 50% of the book. The story pulls you in. The characters are diverse and basic, yet charming and frustrating. It’s a fine balance, and Wolas impeccably draws a wide array of issues and reactions that keep you thinking and page-turning to guess what Joan may say or do next. Just reading about Joan’s daily routine was vivid and exciting, even when it was merely running errands around town.
As mentioned earlier, the stories within the story were just too plentiful. A few were touching and provided some much needed balance to the overall narrative of Joan’s life story. Some went on for twenty pages and truly felt like a roadblock to a successful read of the book. Perhaps as a separate collection of shorts, I might have enjoyed them more. Instead, I found myself eager to get back to the main plot, feeling a bit overwhelmed, and in need of a red pen to edit!
I struggled a bit in the beginning with Joan’s attitude towards a few things in her life. She eagerly tells us how and why she treats her two sons differently, but everything else about her is balanced and fair. She chose to keep the pregnancies, despite not wanting children. She never seemed like someone who would treat them differently, but it was a key aspect of the novel, so I suspended a bit of disbelief and kept on moving… in the end, it’s important to the overall perspective of her behavior, but I think it needed another round of analysis on why Joan behaved the way she did in certain circumstances. Too little left out in some areas, too much included in others.
Summary & Next Steps
Undoubtedly, Wolas is an amazing writer. Some of the passages were lyrical, intense and magnificent. I could never write like she does, I vividly recall thinking at a few moments. If Wolas can produce a novel like that, without all the additional superfluous or extraneous, I’ll be the first in line to buy it. But if it’s another like this, I would TBR it, but not rush for it. I would like to meet her — she seems quite brilliant, but in need of a push in more defined direction. I’m not saying I’d be the one to push her… just curious to see how she thinks in person on the fly, as opposed to a cultivated piece of writing. All-in-all, I’m glad I read this book and I really enjoyed large portions of it. If you can accept the things I noted as concerns, you’ll find some wonderful beauty in her writing style and choice of focus and perspective.
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
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