The Resurrection of Joan Ashby
September 2017 Indie Next List
— Anne Holman, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
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Longlisted for 2019 International DUBLIN Literary Award
Longlisted for 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction
Kirkus Reviews’s Best Fiction of 2017
Kirkus Reviews’s Best Debut Novels of 2017
Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels: 2017
The New York Times Book Review’s Editors’ Choice
Indie Next Pick for September 2017
Kirkus Reviews’s 13 Fiction Debuts & Breakthroughs That Live Up to the Hype
Bustle’s 9 Fall Book Debuts By Women You’re Going To Want To Read Immediately
Nantucket Magazine’s 7 for September 2017
Kirkus Reviews’s 9 Excellent Reads for Labor Day Weekend
Entertainment Weekly’s Thirteen Books to Read in August
San Diego Magazine’s Your Book Shelf: 5 Books to Read in August
“[A] stunning debut...reminds me of my most favorite authors: J.D. Salinger, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Joan Didion.” —A.M. Homes
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.
These words are spoken to a rapturous audience by Joan Ashby, a brilliant and intense literary sensation acclaimed for her explosively dark and singular stories.
When Joan finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she is stunned by Martin’s delight, his instant betrayal of their pact. She makes a fateful, selfless decision then, to embrace her unintentional family.
Challenged by raising two precocious sons, it is decades before she finally completes her masterpiece novel. Poised to reclaim the spotlight, to resume the intended life she gave up for love, a betrayal of Shakespearean proportion forces her to question every choice she has made.
Epic, propulsive, incredibly ambitious, and dazzlingly written, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is a story about sacrifice and motherhood, the burdens of expectation and genius. Cherise Wolas’s gorgeous debut introduces an indelible heroine candid about her struggles and unapologetic in her ambition.
Praise For The Resurrection of Joan Ashby: A Novel…
“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
“The novel is too ambitious to ignore. Wolas’s own talent is undeniable. It’s even more impressive, considering that this is her first book.... It is among the most thrilling prose I have read in a long time.” —Lillith
“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
Flatiron Books, 9781250081438, 544pp.
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Discuss the novel’s title. How is Joan “resurrected” over the course of the novel?
2. Do you agree that “treacheries experienced in childhood are among the most difficult to overcome, or to forgive”? How is Joan shaped by her childhood, and how are her husband and children? Discuss the ways in which treachery affects their family dynamic. What do you believe is the role of nature vs. nurture in terms of ambition and success?
3. Daniel reflects: “It is a long-borne burden, knowing what you lack, and I knew what I lacked….Where, I thought, was the lost and found for discarded genius, from which I could select what I desperately wanted and needed?” How does this novel define “genius”? What is the relationship between genius and work in these characters’ lives?
4. Joan says in an interview: “Love was more than simply inconvenient; its consumptive nature always a threat to serious women. I had seen too often what happened to serious women in love, their sudden, unnatural lightheartedness, their new wardrobe of happiness their prior selves would never have worn, the loss of their forward momentum. I wanted no such conversion, no vulnerability to needless distraction.” Do you agree? How do Joan’s views on love shift over the course of the novel?
5. What role do the excerpts of Joan’s stories and novels play in The Resurrection of Joan Ashby? Did you read them as a lens into her character, ambitions, and perspective on motherhood? Do you have a favorite excerpt?