‘The Resurrection of Tess Blessing’1/14/2015
“The Resurrection of Tess Blessing” is a poignant, heart-tugging and often hilarious new novel from award-winning Wisconsin author Lesley Kagen. Tess Blessing is facing many of the normal challenges of middle age, including sullen, teen-aged children with hair-trigger emotions and a husband going through his own mid-life crisis. She also suffers from a variety of mental issues — OCD, panic attacks, agoraphobia and PTSD resulting from her childhood with a verbally and emotionally abusive mother. She blames herself for her father’s accidental death when she was 10 years old and is estranged from her younger sister who suffers, to an even greater degree, from the same mental illnesses. Finally, at the age of 49, Tess is diagnosed with breast cancer. Certain that this is her death sentence, she sets out to cross off items that make up her final to-do list.
This list turns out to be quite daunting. Aside from “buy broccoli,” Tess feels she needs to reignite the love in her marriage, repair her relationship with her sister, finally scatter her mother’s ashes and help her children with their individual problems so they will be okay when she’s gone. She also desperately seeks a religious epiphany before she can cross out that last item — “die.”
The story is told in a third-person narrative. The narrator, Grace, is someone who has been with Tess her entire life, as a guardian angel, an imaginary friend or maybe a portion of her own subconscious. While we don’t really get inside of Tess’ mind, Grace’s voice provides a look into the psychological complexity of a troubled soul and a heartwarming look at one woman’s chance to come back to life. CV
Shirley Shiffler grew up in Urbandale, graduated from Drake University (twice!), and lives in the Beaverdale neighborhood.