Book Review: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

Author: Cherise Wolas
Published: August 29, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
FLW Rating: 3.5/5

I have been hearing praise about this book non-stop for the last year – yes since before it was released. One of my favorite book bloggers sang its praises and made me extremely curious, but with a length of over 500 pages I wasn’t willing to commit.

After all the build up, I’m a little bummed to say that in regards to my feelings on the book, I’m conflicted.  It 100% met the hype with its thoughtfulness, diverse plotline, and prose, but there the structure and formatting felt jumpy and forced me to feel distracted and disinterested.

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The Resurrection of Joan Ashby tells the story of, you guessed it, Joan Ashby, or Ashby as she prefers to be called. By the time Ashby is 21, she has already had two best sellers and is known around the world for her short story collections. She has plans to write indefinitely and not be distracted by love, marriage, or children, until exactly that happens. But this isn’t a story of someone who falls in to the sociatel norm of loving that path – this is the story of a someone struggling with their loss of identity — hence the preference to be called Ashby.

As I reflect on this story, it strikes me how much I connected with Ashby and care about the life that I was able to enter in to, if only for a short time. I am someone who wants children one day, but this story highlighted how “normal” that is, and how that normalization would be hard for someone who does not. And that’s why I think this book is so important. It does what it can to legitimize Ashby’s emotions in a world that doesn’t understand.

Is motherhood inescapably entwined in female life, a story every woman ends up telling, whether or not she sought or desired that bond; her nourishment, her caretaking, her love, needed by someone standing before her, hands held out, heart demanding succor, commanding her not to look away, but to dig deep, give of herself unstintingly, offer up everything she can?

So with such a strong connection to the plot and the characters, I felt frustrated to feel disinterested for most of the middle section of the book. The bottom line for me is that the writing format did not flow the way it needs to in such a long book. The book is primarily written as a typical novel, but it begins with a magazine or newspaper article about Ashby and her successes, then intermittantly throughout the book her work is inserted in to the novel, and in the middle of the book there is a long sections in the format of “recordings”. While it was interesting to have a book-within-a-book, it took my brain a long time to transition in and out of these sections. This may be a personal preference, but particularly when the book is long, I find it important to get in the groove of the author’s writing and be able to read easily. 530 pages of struggling in and out of unexpected formatting and a variety of stories was tiring.

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If you remove the exerpts from Ashby’s writings and the some of the other oddly formatted sections, I think the book could get down to a very hard hitting 350 pages. I would read this book and recommend it to everyone I know. At 530, it’s too long, too jumpy, and although I kind of hate to admit it, still pretty good by the time it’s all said and done.

Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

  1. Great review Erin! I haven’t read this one but I’m looking forward to reading her next book, THE FAMILY TABOR, which is a little bit shorter, lol. This one has definitely gotten a lot of praise, though, so maybe I’ll check it out after I read TABOR. Thanks for your thoughts! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hannah! That one is definitely on my list — the writing in Resurrection is beautiful so I’m definitely still planning to read The Family Tabor. Interestingly some of the characters in “Ashby’s work” have the last name Tabor so I’m curious if there’s any connection!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I won an ARC of this book and had read a little bit last year but couldn’t stick with it so I put it down with plans to get back to it.

    Thanks for your honesty on what made the book not your favorite. I really do like long books but if it feels choppy at times I can see how it would be hard to stick with it. Maybe I’ll give it another try, I do like the premise that she wants one life but she ends up with something she hadn’t planned for and how it shapes her going forward.

    I’ll have to figure out when I can put this one back in my rotation

    Liked by 1 person

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