Thursday, January 15, 2015
The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen
Once again, I've managed to read an entirely Lesley Kagen book and yet only realize while paring it down to its summary what a very dark, depressing book it appears to be. It seems Kagen is a master at dealing with devastating topics with a light touch, and The Resurrection of Tess Blessing highlights that talent yet again. Part of the way Kagen accomplishes that lightness is with her unusual choice of a narrator. The story is told from the perspective of Grace, Tess's imaginary friend, who's always around but only shows herself in times of extreme need. As Tess undergoes treatment and chisels away at her pre-death to-do list, Grace is always there to add a little levity and a sympathetic inside look at Tess's life thus far.
Despite its clever telling and its light touch, I struggled a little with The Resurrection of Tess Blessing because it took me a long time to actually start liking the characters. The husband that glibly drops his wife off for a lumpectomy and then heads to work, the prickly daughter with her hostile responses to her mother's efforts to get her to eat food, and the typical teenage boy who can't be bothered by those around him but requires a certain amount of babying all the same are necessarily aggravating because, of course, they have redeem themselves with flying colors at some point, right? Tess herself with all her groundless fears, quirks, people-pleasing tendencies, and paranoia was a hard character for me to love, too. I feel as if she is the sort of character that moms everywhere will see parts of themselves in, but for the rest of us who aren't moms and just have one, this book gives us plenty of reasons to feel guilty about the dozen tiny ways we might hurt our own mothers ever day.
On the whole, though, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing is a sweetly told tale of a woman's life flashing before her eyes at length. Characters that rub the wrong way at first are all part of a touching payoff that's totally worth it. By the end, you will be rooting for Tess to overcome her fears, see her family members for who they really are, and rediscover the life she'd imagined.
A side note on the editing - I wish I didn't have to mention this, but if I'm being honest, as I always strive to be, it has to be said. I found the copy-editing of this book to be very shoddy. From what I can tell, the book I received from SparkPress via BookSparks PR, is a final finished copy, and, if so, it could have used a (more) thorough going over before heading to press. The book is, unfortunately, littered with small errors and a few pretty noticeable discrepancies in names (i.e. Tess's father is referred to with her married name rather than her maiden name on at least a couple of occasions). So, fair warning to those who are bothered by these sorts of things as I, unfortunately, definitely am.