The Resurrection of Tess Blessing
By: Lesley Kagen
Publication Date: 12/09/2014
My Rating: 5 Stars
After she's diagnosed with breast cancer, forty-nine-year old Tess sets forth on a mission to complete her TO-DO List before, what she's sure is, her impending death. She needs to make peace with her estranged sister, Birdie, scatter her mother's long-kept ashes, rescue her daughter, Haddie, from the grip of an eating disorder, guide her teenage son, Henry, through a bumpy adolescence, and reignite the spark in her almost thirty-year marriage to her husband, Will.
Tess is aided on her quest by narrator, Grace, who lends the story its most brilliant elements: subtle magical realism and deep psychological complexity. Is Grace an imaginary friend, guardian angel, or a part of Tess that knows better than she? The Resurrection of Tess Blessing is by turns poignant, gritty, spiritually uplifting, and hilarious as hell.
Lesley Kagen has created an unforgettable, redemptive story about a middle-aged woman with the odds stacked against her, who discovers that in the end, love really does conquer all.
A special thank you to SparkPress and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
EXTRAORDINARY! When I see advance praise for a new book, from my two favorite authors, Beth Hoffman and Diane Chamberlain, I know this is an author and a book I need, want, and have to read!
Lesley Kagen's The Resurrection of Tess Blessing does not disappoint. Immediately after finishing, I purchased the novella to learn more about Tess and Birdie’s childhood. Recommend reading both.
Set in Ruby Falls, Wisconsin, we pick up with character Tess Blessing (the OCD “list making” queen), from the novella, The Undertaking of Tess (formerly Tess Finley), now forty-nine years old, married to Will, for thirty years, and mother of Haddie and Henry, and lovable golden retriever, Garbo (the only one who seems to cooperate).
Will is the owner of the local popular Main Street 50’s style diner, Count Your Blessings where Tess helps out as well. Tess has all sorts of worries and fears (like her childhood); appears tragedy follows her everywhere she goes.
She is no longer the star of her children’s lives and she still holds on to her favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and continues to experience panic attacks. Now her concerns are real adult ones, so she has still has her imaginary friend, Grace to help her bear the load.
A list of Tess’ new problems:
• Will, her husband is going through a mid-life crisis. She suspects he is having an affair with sexy Connie from the diner. (No sex action between the sheets at home. He disappears on Wed nights returning with blond hairs and smelling of Tabu) not good signs.
• At her age she still has Grace, her IF (imaginary friend), thank goodness. Her sister Birdie, has IF (Bess).
• Tess has just discovered she has breast cancer and may die; no religious faith, and cannot tell anyone in the family of her illness. She is alone with PTSD and OCD among other fears.
• Haddie, her eighteen year old daughter has an eating disorder; anorexia and bulimia, and she does not know how to help.
• Henry, her fifteen year old son, is distant, cruel and does not give her the time of day.
• Louise, her bitchy, self-centered mother (from novella), has recently died; her mother still talks to her from the grave, with continued sarcastic remarks and chimes in on every thought. She has to bury her once and for all and scatter her ashes.
• Birdie, her main problem. She has to get her to talk to her. Her fragile, agoraphobia, OCD, much loved sister is living in Boca and is not speaking to her, because they had a difference of opinion of trying to save their mother. Now she has to get her to help her spread their mother’s ashes. Thus far Birdie is ignoring her, and she may have to play the "cancer card".
If any of you have read my review of The Undertaking of Tess, you will learn how excited I was to discover this newfound author. The Resurrection of Tess Blessing is a poignant, emotional, and moving story, of a woman’s journey of dysfunction and life’s messiness, mixed with humor and wit. I laughed so hard, as Kagen has some great one-liners and so loved Tess’ To Do Lists and the way she strikes through the ones checked off. Priceless.
A page-turner you will not be able to put down, fast paced, keeping you in suspense to learn what the heck is going on with Will, dying to find out about Birdie, and rooting for some much needed happiness for Tess.
Lesley’s writing is unique as her character development is superb, with insightful feelings and thoughts, crossing over to psychological. The book reminded me a little of Elizabeth Hein’s How to Climb the Eiffel Tower (cancer, bad childhood, social issues, and funny as heck), Claire Cook’s sense of humor, and Amy Hatvany and Jennifer Weiner’s style of tackling highly-charged subjects with brutal honesty and hilarious laugh out loud humor and wit.
A book for every woman of any age, crossing many genres from marriage, relationship, family, dysfunction, sisters, siblings, love, motherhood, fears, mental illness, social issues, tragedy, grief, redemption, forgiveness, cancer, and most of all the humor.
If you love complex, poignant, funny, and uplifting self-discovery reads, The Resurrection of Tess Blessings is for you!