BookBrowse Reviews The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

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The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

by Cherise Wolas

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas X
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2017, 544 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2018, 544 pages

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An acclaimed young writer falls in love, marries and raises two sons - all the while struggling to find a space in her busy life for her true passion as a writer.

Over half of those who reviewed Cherise Wolas' debut novel, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, rated it a glowing 5 stars. But about a quarter disliked it intensely, resulting in an average rating of 4.2 stars. Here's what they have to say:

What it's about:

The story follows the life of an acclaimed young writer, Joan Ashby, as she falls in love, marries and raises two sons - all the while struggling to find a space in her busy life for her passion: writing fiction (Nancy L). Told from Ashby's point of view the book covers more than twenty years in the life of the family interspersed with the stories that Ashby has written and is writing (Margaret H). It is the story of motherhood, sacrifice, and all the burdens that come with life and love (Maureen S).

Several reviewers remarked on the quality of Walas' writing:

I was pulled under Wolas' spell almost from the beginning (Sally H). I was blown away by how beautifully her writing captured a family's tumultuous journey together spanning several decades (Miller W). I was constantly in awe of Wolas' superb mastery of the English language (Diane H).

The character of Joan Ashby was a highlight for many:

The author has given us a complex, intelligent, extraordinary woman in Joan Ashby (Mary M). Sometimes it was hard to believe that she was a fictional character; Wolas really brought her to life (Charlene D). I felt her joys and disappointments (Harriette K). She was no longer just a character, she became my friend (Maureen S). I feel that Joan's soul-searching is something any woman can relate to (Rebecca R).

Almost all our reviewers mentioned the author's story-within-a-story format:

Throughout the book, Joan's own writing is excerpted. This could be confusing or off-putting to some, but I found that it made me truly believe in Joan's talent, instead of simply being told she was a genius. Wolas is superbly talented herself to have done this so perfectly (Mary M). These secondary stories were riveting! I wanted to know Joan's fictional characters better, find out how their stories ended as well (Carol F). I found myself getting wrapped up in them (Rebecca R). They were so creative, so well written, that I found myself wanting more (Sarah H).

But the format and the book's length didn't work for some:

The stories interspersed throughout were off-putting -- both the content and placement. It made it hard to enjoy the book (Susan P). I found it stunning one moment and incomprehensible the next (Judy W). The first 400 pages were great, the final 131 were somewhat painful. I don't feel better for having read this story (Brenda S). The writing samples served mostly to lengthen the book rather than advance the story (Laura P). Heavens, surely the author could have achieved her purpose without making her readers struggle so much (Virginia M).

However, the majority are fans:

This is an amazing book! If I could think of other superlatives to describe it, I would use them (Diane H). Wow! And double wow! This book made everything else I've read lately seem simplistic, dull, unimaginable and shallow (Gwen C). I was completely intrigued and found it very hard to put down; it kept me engrossed until the very end (Nancy L). I seldom give a 5 rating, but the story and the writing held me from the first to last page without my interest flagging at any point (Harriette K). This may be the best debut novel I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Each sentence is exquisitely written, the characters are unique and fully developed with extremely insightful examinations of what drives each of them, and the format of including literature written by the main character enhances and supports the plot. This book is everything that you want a great piece of literature to be (Amy P).

Readers drew comparisons between The Resurrection of Joan Ashby and other works:

I haven't read something so satisfying and that gripped me so thoroughly since The Goldfinch (Mary M). It reminded me of Isak Dinesen - stories within the story (Charlene D). The final section of the novel struck me as an Eastern-spirituality-based version of books like The Shack and The Celestine Prophesy (Laura P).

Recommended for:

I recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates a beautifully written, multi-layered story, the exploration of identity and complex characters. It is not an "easy" read, but thoughtful book clubs will have a wonderful time with it (Mary M). I recommend it to any reader, young or old (Erin C). I think it will speak to a lot of women who as mothers have made sacrifices that have affected their careers, their identities, their futures and their happiness (Amy P).

This review was originally published in October 2017, and has been updated for the May 2018 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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