Summary and book reviews of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

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

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Book Summary

Epic, propulsive, incredibly ambitious, and dazzlingly written, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is a story about sacrifice and motherhood, the burdens of expectation and genius. Cherise Wolas's gorgeous debut introduces an indelible heroine candid about her struggles and unapologetic in her ambition.

I viewed the consumptive nature of love as a threat to serious women. But the wonderful man I just married believes as I do--work is paramount, absolutely no children - and now love seems to me quite marvelous.

These words are spoken to a rapturous audience by Joan Ashby, a brilliant and intense literary sensation acclaimed for her explosively dark and singular stories.

When Joan finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she is stunned by Martin's delight, his instant betrayal of their pact. She makes a fateful, selfless decision then, to embrace her unintentional family.

Challenged by raising two precocious sons, it is decades before she finally completes her masterpiece novel. Poised to reclaim the spotlight, to resume the intended life she gave up for love, a betrayal of Shakespearean proportion forces her to question every choice she has made.

Excerpt
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

A fair came to Rhome the first weekend of August, setting up in a huge field where the hay had been sickle-mowed, leaving behind a flat, golden carpet. The field was ten miles past the Mannings' neighborhood, now called Peachtree by almost everyone. It was hot and sunny, the cloudless sky a rich blue. All of Rhome seemed to have turned out, as well as a good part of the populations of the towns on either side of it, for the fair was bustling when Joan and Martin and the boys arrived. White and beige tents dotted the landscape and booths had been set up and were doing a brisk business selling local produce, home-made jams and preserves, cheeses made from cows and goats and sheep from the nearby farms, wine bottled from Rappahannock County and Shenandoah Valley grapes. For the kids, there were Italian ices and sno-cones to lick, cotton candy to pull apart, and rides—a Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a small roller coaster, a riding ring ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the novel's title. How is Joan "resurrected" over the course of the novel?
  2. Do you agree that "treacheries experienced in childhood are among the most difficult to overcome, or to forgive"? How is Joan shaped by her childhood, and how are her husband and children? Discuss the ways in which treachery affects their family dynamic. What do you believe is the role of nature vs. nurture in terms of ambition and success?
  3. Daniel reflects: "It is a long-borne burden, knowing what you lack, and I knew what I lacked. . . . Where, I thought, was the lost and found for discarded genius, from which I could select what I desperately wanted and needed?" How does this novel define "genius"? What is the relationship between genius and ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (783 words).

Media Reviews

The Huffington Post
This ambitious first novel introduces us to an elusive artist with a stratospheric cult following?only to unravel her life, as the blessings of divine inspiration battle the curse of earthly love. Lawyer and film producer Wolas has forged an audacious balancing act whose betrayals come from the least expected corners, submerging readers in a dazzling universe we hate to leave.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Like John Irving's The World According to Garp, this is a look at the life of a writer that will entertain many nonwriters. Like Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, it's a sharp-eyed portrait of the artist as spouse and householder. From the start, one wonders how Wolas is possibly going to pay off the idea that her heroine is such a genius. Verdict: few could do better.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Debut author Wolas's sure hand applies layer upon layer of precisely meshed poetic and cinematic scenes to realize a life of such quiet majesty and original consideration of family interplay that she does the impossible. Readers not only will mourn coming to the end, they will feel compelled to start over to watch the miracle of this novel unfold again. Breathtaking.

Booklist
Starred Review. Deftly exploring themes of sibling rivalry and individualism and layering short stories within the larger narrative, this breathtaking, if overlong, novel will do for motherhood what Gone Girl (2012) did for marriage.

Author Blurb A.M. Homes
A stunning debut...Reminds me of my most favorite authors: J.D. Salinger, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Joan Didion.

Author Blurb Sarah Blake, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress
This is the kind of book that pulls you under and you go willingly. And when it's over, you come up for air and see anew. In giving us the story of one woman's struggle to write her own life, Wolas captures worlds in worlds here, and lives in lives. As many currents run in a single river, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is rich and wide, and deep.

Author Blurb Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street
Cherise Wolas has delivered an audacious and dynamic first novel. The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is a remarkable tapestry of literary skill, emotional insight, and sensational storytelling.

Reader Reviews

Beth B.

Beyond amazing
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby MUST win literary awards and millions of accolades from readers who have been swept away by this debut novel. The technique of stories within stories is so seamlessly skillful that I'm in awe. Wisdom of motherhood, ...   Read More

Lola425

My new literary idol
Wow. Joan is my new idol. A strong female protagonist who unapologetically feels what she feels, who is creative and believes in her genius, believes that her art and her desire to create that art is important, even if she finds herself on a ...   Read More

Paula

Excellent
This book is stunning, one of the best I've read this year. Comparable to "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt. Simply amazing how this debut writer has the chutzpah to create a world-famous writer, immerse us in her excellent stories, and she ...   Read More

Andrea B. (Pleasant Prairie, WI)

Food for the Reader's Soul
Joan is a celebrated young writer who has a passion for words. She just published a second collection of short stories and is working on her first novel when she falls in love. Joan does not plan to get married or have kids because she wants nothing...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Advice Books for Juggling Careers & Motherhood

In The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, the eponymous main character struggles to maintain her career as a writer while raising two children. She is not alone; thousands of women grapple with this issue every day. In recent years many books have been published aimed at this demographic with the goal of providing advice, guidance and support. A few of the more popular are listed below.

The Milk MemosThe Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies and How You Can, Too by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette (2007)

This book was started when Cate Colburn-Smith sat down in IBM's company lactation room and scribbled on a paper towel, "I'm a new mom and today is my first day back at work. Is anyone else using this room?" ...

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