Thank you to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for a free finished book to review. All opinions are my own.
Oh, what to say about this monstrosity of a book…
When I walked down the aisle to marry my husband, all I could see in my future were rainbows and butterflies and unicorns. There was no room for storm clouds or thunder or lightening – only good and happy thoughts surrounded by pure love. I was walking towards my “happily ever after”! Years and many, many challenges later, our love has been tested over and over again. We have wondered if it would be easier to give up and go our separate ways. We have wondered if we gave up too much of ourselves in order to chase that dream of unity. We, luckily, have always been able to find our way back to each other and have never given up on each other at the same time. Our love and desire to make it work has always won out.
In The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, Joan is a woman who doesn’t have the desire to settle down, get married, or have children. When Martin proposes marriage to her, she accepts but makes him promise that children will never, ever be part of their deal. He agrees but it isn’t long before Joan finds herself pregnant with their first child, Daniel. While she isn’t immediately smitten with motherhood, Joan does find an unexpected connection to Daniel; both have an incredible talent for creative writing. She finds herself favoring Daniel over her other son, Eric, who she doesn’t understand or connect with at all. Throughout the book, Joan muses about her life before she decided to get married and have children. She was a very successful author and the demands of motherhood make it difficult for her to find the time to write. She misses being immersed in her creative life and fantasizes about the days when she will no longer be so tightly bound to her familial duties. (Read the official synopsis here.)
There’s a real beauty to Joan’s honesty and rawness. She doesn’t fall head-over-heels-in-love with motherhood; it takes her awhile to warm up to the idea at all. She sacrifices her career and ambitions while her husband’s career takes off and sends him traveling all around the world to advance his medical techniques even though they agreed that her writing would always come first. The only thing that keeps her grounded is the fact that she begins writing in secret – something her husband never even realizes. The disconnect in their marriage made my heart hurt for Joan – she’s sacrificed everything while he obliviously continues on with his own life. She is under-appreciated, ignored, and taken for granted by everyone in her life.
When it all comes to a head by a betrayal I never saw coming (no, it’s not what you think!), I was actually surprised how calm, cool, and collected Joan remained. Considering she had to have been like a pressure cooker at this point, I would have lost it! I would have gone down in a blaze of glory – not quietly booking a ticket to fly halfway around the world.
I admired Joan’s resilience and quiet strength. In the end, she handled the betrayal with such grace and I loved how she redeemed her life and found peace by the end of the book. I definitely lived vicariously through her because it’s not within my character to do some of the things she did; however, I think that made me cheer for her even harder!
I did not enjoy the short stories interspersed throughout the novel and felt it would have made it stronger (and shorter!) without the distraction. Maybe I’m not smart enough to find the hidden meanings in the passages (because I’m sure they’re there), but I found I had to force myself to actually read them instead of skimming over them. I just wanted to get back to the story of Joan!
Overall, I liked the book, but it won’t be making my All-Time Favorites List. It’s just too long and, at times, whiny (#sorrynotsorry for saying it). It requires a strong commitment from the reader because it’s so character-driven and dense that most people (besides serious book lovers) wouldn’t find themselves able to slog through. I believe the reader is rewarded in the end for that commitment, I’m just not sure how many people will care to stick it out.