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The Resurrection of Joan Ashby: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 29, 2017
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“Ambitious...Intimate...There is a terrific twist midway through…Reads like a juicy 19th-century tome…That I got so worked up about a person who doesn’t exist is a testament to Wolas’s success in creating a complex and distinct fictional character. Joan Ashby is like no writer I have ever encountered; I’m sure, if she were real, she would be pleased to hear it.”
―The New York Times Book Review
“The rapturous advance praise for Cherise Wolas’ assured meta debut, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, doesn’t do it justice. This ambitious first novel introduces us to an elusive artist with a stratospheric cult following―only to unravel her life, as the blessings of divine inspiration battle the curse of earthly love. Lawyer and film producer Wolas has forged an audacious balancing act whose betrayals come from the least expected corners, submerging readers in a dazzling universe we hate to leave.”
―Huffington Post, starred review
“A startlingly self-assured debut novel spanning decades and rendered in luminous prose throughout…A deeply feminist novel, but one free of didacticism and ideological baggage.”
―The Toronto Star
“A stunning debut novel…a wealth of superb writing, mature insights, and breathtaking risks....A rare book such as this comes along only once in a long while.”
―New York Journal of Books
“Epic in scale, the novel focuses on Joan’s efforts to resolve her own life. This is an extraordinary, assured and deeply involving novel about marriage, motherhood, sacrifice and the creative impulse. Highly recommended.”
―Daily Mail, UK
“This breathtaking...novel will do for motherhood what Gone Girl (2012) did for marriage. ‘A story requires two things: a great story to tell and the bravery to tell it,’ Joan observes. Wolas’ debut expertly checks off both boxes.”
―Booklist, starred review
“Like John Irving’s The World According to Garp, this is a look at the life of a writer that will entertain many nonwriters. Like Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, it’s a sharp-eyed portrait of the artist as spouse and householder. From the start, one wonders how Wolas is possibly going to pay off the idea that her heroine is such a genius. Verdict: few could do better.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Debut author Wolas’s sure hand applies layer upon layer of precisely meshed poetic and cinematic scenes to realize a life of such quiet majesty and original consideration of family interplay that she does the impossible. Readers not only will mourn coming to the end, they will feel compelled to start over to watch the miracle of this novel unfold again. Breathtaking.”
―Library Journal, starred review
“It’s almost impossible to believe that The Resurrection of Joan Ashby…is the first novel by Cherise Wolas, a lawyer and film producer. Gorgeously written and completely captivating, the book spans decades and continents, deftly capturing the tug so many women feel between motherhood and self-identity.”
“Love and betrayal and expectation, all encapsulated in the story of one woman, Joan Ashby, and the surprises and disappointments of her life. Wolas' debut turns a critical and perceptive eye onto the complications and expectations of marriage. It’s also gorgeously written. Get into it.”
“You will not come away unchanged, and you will continue to think about Joan Ashby’s path long after you put this brick down…a masterful (mistress-ful? We need a better modifier…) debut novel that dares to consider whether becoming a mother is worth it, or not.”
“The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is Wolas's astonishing debut…innovative…brilliant.”
―Shelf Awareness Pro
“The scope of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, the breadth of its engagement with the reader, the impressive realization of its ambitious literary character, all resonated so deeply that the pages of these other books offered naught but hollow echoes. Not only had Wolas succeeded in creating a character presented as a literary icon, complete with accompanying primary text, but she powerfully engaged the reader through an exploration of personal identity.”
―Publishers Weekly’s Shelf Talker
“...a tour de force. And while I accept that it is a debut, I am shocked by it. It’s, for me, like the literary equivalent of Athena springing fully formed from the head of Zeus.”
―Kirkus Review’s Fully Booked podcast
“Remarkable...There is power in the artistry of Cherise Wolas’ empathetic and resonant portrait of Joan Ashby, a woman who struggles every day to understand herself and to live the life that is true and authentic for her, despite demands and expectations to the contrary. Joan Ashby is every woman.”
“Astonishing...a gorgeous read, big and bold, intelligent and thought-provoking...an incredible book that reads nothing like a debut, so self-assured the writing, so expansive and wholly immersive the plot.”
“A stunning debut―because there is nothing debut about it. It arrives so fully realized that it stuns as it entertains, as it twirls the reader on the sharp point of a #2 pencil. Wolas is a writer in full command of some impressive powers―one might even call them special powers. There is a joyous embrace to her work―to her exploration of the life and mind of her main character, the author Joan Ashby. Ashby is so well rendered that I found myself jealous of her (and Wolas) and also wishing she were my best friend and that we had a standing drinks date. Wolas is singular in her voice―and yet the delicacy, the specificity reminds me of my most favorite authors: J.D. Salinger, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Joan Didion.”
―A.M. Homes, New York Times bestselling author of May We Be Forgiven, Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction
“This is the kind of book that pulls you under and you go willingly. And when it’s over, you come up for air and see anew. In giving us the story of one woman’s struggle to write her own life, Wolas captures worlds in worlds here, and lives in lives. As many currents run in a single river, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is rich and wide, and deep.”
―Sarah Blake, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress
“Cherise Wolas has delivered an audacious and dynamic first novel. The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is a remarkable tapestry of literary skill, emotional insight, and sensational storytelling.”
―Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street
About the Author
Cherise Wolas is a writer, lawyer, and film producer. A native of Los Angeles, she lives in New York City with her husband. The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is her debut.
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The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas centers on the life of the famous author Joan Ashby. Joan, achieving early commercial and critical success as a writer, declares that from the time she was thirteen she had a plan for her life. She would focus solely on writing; living independent and fulfilled without the complications of a husband and children. At the height of her fame, and in the process of writing her first full-length novel, Joan falls in love with Martin. Martin agrees with Joan that children are off the table and that their professional lives will always come first. She believes that she has found the perfect partner with which to share her life.
“I viewed the consumptive nature of love as a threat to serious women. But the wonderful man I just married believes as I do―work is paramount, absolutely no children―and now love seems to me quite marvelous.”
Soon after their marriage, Joan accidentally becomes pregnant. Surprised by her husband’s elation at the news, and the betrayal of everything their relationship was based upon, she reluctantly tries to embrace motherhood and this new path for her life. While raising two sons, Joan secretly works on completing the novel she always wanted to write, hoping that one day she will be able to reclaim the life she once envisioned for herself.
After decades of sacrifice and throwing herself into motherhood, Joan can taste the freedom that will come with launching her children into the world, allowing her the ability to publish the novel she has waited so long for the world to read. She will finally be able to fulfill her destiny, and reclaim her true identity as a writer. Just as everything appears to be coming together, Joan is betrayed in such a devastating way that she is forced to question every choice she has made.
I am truly at a loss for how to fully convey the magnificence of this book. It has to be experienced to be understood. The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is one of the best books I have ever read, and I have officially moved it onto my all-time top ten list. I am flabbergasted by the talent of Cherise Wolas, and no one I have talked to who has read this book can believe that this is her debut! The writing is so stunning and so beautiful. The story is so complex and so deep and so moving. There are so many layers, and it so impressive how Joan Ashby’s writing intermingles so seamlessly as stories within the story. They somehow make perfect sense each step of the way. I often found myself getting lost in Joan’s writing, and these excerpts could truly be their own book. I would absolutely buy a book by Joan Ashby (hint hint Cherise Wolas)!
I am usually a reader who likes a fast-paced plot without a lot of navel gazing. This book demands to be taken in slowly, and yet I savored getting to know Joan so intimately. While it is a character-driven novel, there is plenty to sink your teeth into, and I was never bored. No small feat for a 500-plus page novel. This book will stay with me forever. It is an astonishing debut and a modern classic.
“It was sophisticated and complex, its skein of themes elegantly knitted together—about the nature of creation, hope, faith, community, the mandate to follow one’s dreams, because to do otherwise meant certain death, an actual explosion of one’s heart, or, and perhaps worse, the figurative explosion of one’s being. I thought it was a huge book. Taut and tied together”.
I will read anything that Cherise Wolas writes in the future!
Inspiration. Creation. Love. Motherhood. Children. Sibling Rivalry. Family. Repressing one’s inner self. Regret. Resentment. Promises broken. Dreams crushed. Writing. Commitment. Betrayal. These are some of the themes throughout this story.
At the somewhat still tender age of thirteen, Joan Ashby kept notebooks labeled “Favorite Words,” “Books I Am Reading,” “Quotes Never to Forget,” “Stories,” and “How to Do It.” Within the last one is a list of nine principles, which, include, beyond the standards regarding writing, “Avoid crushes and love,” “Do not entertain any offer of marriage,” “Never ever have children,” and “Never allow anyone to get in my way.”
At a young age, eight years after writing this list, Joan Ashby’s first short story collection, “Other Small Spaces” is published to acclaim, making the best seller list and winning the National Book Award. Four years later, she follows that up with another collection of short stories, “Fictional Family Life,” shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, and once again a best seller.
This is the life she has chosen. She chooses this life every day; she lives to tell the stories that run through her, like blood through her veins, or air. Necessary for life.
And then, somewhere in between her books, she fell in love, although not entirely all-consuming. He had his space, she had hers. She wrote. After many desperate love letters, weekends at her place, weekends at his place, she acquiesced, they married, and that verbal contract of no children, ever, is suddenly null and void. A baby is on the way, but this newly married bliss is not tarnished, she convinces herself this pregnancy is a mere blip in the delight she’s feeling. Her husband, Martin, a neuro-ocular surgeon, is thoroughly delighted. They love the small town they’ve moved to in Rhome, Virginia, him from Baltimore, her from NYC.
”… the act of writing had never felt as exquisitely important, so much like prayer.”
And so, a child arrives. A son, Daniel. And because, as they say, “you can’t just have one,” after several years, they have another son, Eric.
This is the life that chooses her.
“The Resurrection of Joan Ashby” is told through Joan’s personal views, woven alongside sections of Joan Ashby’s written stories throughout the novel. This worked for me most of the time, but there were a few that didn’t work as well, one time that went on a bit too long, and another time it felt more like an interruption. However, these figured in more as the story continues, as the children grow older, as she begins to find a way to get back to her writing, to her real self, as roadblocks pop up at so many turns.
There are a few likeable characters in this debut novel, this story - these stories by Cherise Wolas, but there are at least equally as many who are questionably likeable, or capable of love. The story of Joan Ashby is frequently moving and the writing has a sense of strength and determination, a intense focus on the internal repercussions and struggles of her allowing this life, these choices, to pull her away from her writing. The sacrifices we make, chosen or not.
Writing is as much a product of one’s soul as giving birth to and raising a child or children, but trying to do both in a home where one parent is responsible for virtually all of the home related duties, and parenting responsibilities seems almost impossible. Both require a nurturing environment, a parent can tend to the children, but tending to oneself always seems to be pushed aside when others are scrambling to be heard. And suddenly it becomes a choice to be made another day.
”But weren’t people ultimately and irrevocably lost if they abandoned those dreams, ceased trying to create a rich alternative world for themselves and for other? Wasn’t the beauty of art found in the uncovering and discovering in being taken, or led, to the line, the step, the curve, the color, the note, the word? Wasn’t the ability to start anew, again and again, the very definition of human endeavor?”
The mistakes we make throughout our lives define us as well as the choices we make, a simple one word response to a child shapes so much of a destiny, the simple orbit changed into a damaging trajectory where words collide.
Many thanks for the ARC provided by Flatiron Books!
It's 4am and there was no way I was going to sleep before I finished it, even though I'd wanted to finish it yesterday. Instead, throughout, I've found myself deliberately reading each word - I never do that, I skim quickly following the line of the story. She paints such pictures with her words - and I feel that I've just been taken on an extraordinary life's journey (I know there's a literary word for that somewhere - and which I've just googled to be bildungsroman - and I think it's nearly right - and I've never used that word before). If I could write a book, I wish it had been this one. I ADORed the short stories interspersed - have rarely felt as aware of the power of a pithy short story - will now start hunting some down. I fell in love with Joan, feel for her, wouldn't personally have made the same choices - though maybe I've made similar ones but haven't had a Daniel- or Eric-shaped problem in my life (and am grateful that my two were easier and happier). I'd love to know Vita, I might know Camille, I'm not at ALL sorry for Martin. It is an honor to be the caretaker of genius - but I think it can only be done with great love.This isn't a review of the book - it's a mini-explosion of how it's made me feel at the moment I finished it. What a deep pleasure these last few days have been immersed in this book. I feel that I need to go right back to the beginning and start it over again. THAT's how good!