Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen

After witnessing her father's death at a young age and spending the rest of her childhood in the shadow of her cruel and unpredictable mother, it's no wonder that Tess Blessing and her sister Birdie carry with them a life of trauma and fear.  Even into middle-age, Tess is riddled with paranoia and hassled by the cynical voice of her now dead mother that haunts her thoughts.  Lately, it seems like it's even harder for her to cover up her tendency toward unexpected panic attacks and irrational fears, especially as she suspects that her husband Will's extra time spent running the family diner might actually be spent having an affair, her daughter Haddie leaves for art school while struggling with an eating disorder, and her formerly sensitive, lovable baby boy, Henry, turns into a sullen teenager.  When Tess is feeling at her most hollow and helpless, life deals her another blow - a diagnosis of breast cancer.  The Resurrection of Tess Blessing gives us the story of how Tess, facing the possibility of her own imminent mortality, must set out to repair her family and herself before the cancer can claim her.

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.


  1. A small few errors I can overlook, but too many and it starts to impact my enjoyment of a book. Other than that, this sounds like something I might like. I'm particularly curious about Tess's character--which is good considering she's the main character. :-) Lately for some reason, I a mention of panic attacks, and my must read radar goes up. Not sure what that's about. LOL

  2. Yeah, the copyediting was irritating. I love Kagen, but I did have a harder time with this book. Did you read THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS? I loved it and really wished the subsequent book would have been told in the same way -- in the voice of young Tess. I didn't like older Tess nearly as much.

  3. This book sounds a bit dark for me. Give me P.G. Wodehouse any day!

  4. This book sounds super amazing to me! I haven't heard of it, so I need to check it out. But what a bummer about the typos - they always bug me, in a bad way.

  5. Ugh, I get so annoyed with bad editing, especially in what sounds like an otherwise promising read.