Book Review: The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen

“Most of what you think you know about imaginary friends is probably inaccurate. We’re a much more complicated lot than the way we’re often portrayed.”

– Lesley Kagen, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing

Well before Christmas an independent American book publisher got in touch and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a book for them! I was stoked – oh, the wonders of the Internet. I loaded the book onto my iPad and carried it around with me for a couple of weeks before I managed to sit down and read it. Afterwards, I sat down to write the review so many times but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I had no idea how to approach writing about the events in this story as it was just so different to anything I had read before. The story isn’t that original but there is something very unique about the way it is written.

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen is a story of redemption, family and love. The story follows Tess Blessing and the events of her life, both before and after the diagnosis of breast cancer at fifty-one years of age. A prolific list maker, Tess decides that she must tick off one final ‘to-do’ list before her impending death (or so she assumes). The list begins a little like this:

To-Do List

  1. Buy broccoli
  2. Make sure Haddie gets the help she needs from a better therapist
  3. Set up a vocational counselling appointment for Henry
  4. Convince Will to love me again
  5. Get Birdie to talk to me
  6. Bury Louise once and for all
  7. Have a religious epiphany so #8 is possible
  8. Die

There are so many things Tess feels she needs to make peace with – her estranged sister, her husband, her daughter, her teenage son and most importantly, the ghost of her mother. Tess is not only fighting herself but also she fights for everyone around her. She is a deeply caring (and slightly neurotic) person who desperately wants the best for those around her. At the same time, Tess is also fighting for those around her to see who she is; her relationship with her mother was certainly difficult and throughout the book Tess finally comes to understand herself and how the events of her childhood shaped the rest of her life. It takes Tess a while to realise that she might need to stick around a little longer to see the effects of her list.

Tess is aided and guided along the way by Grace who is definitely one of the more unusual narrators I have come across. Initially I really struggled with the way the story is narrated; it is the same reason that prevented me from beginning The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (I find it really hard to describe the kind of narration I mean so you will just have to believe me!) It’s the style of narration that trips me up however Grace adds a certain magical element to the story. It is hard to know who – or what – Grace is. Either way, she is an integral part of the story and she moves it along beautifully.

I really did enjoy this book. It’s a little quirky but it has an honesty to it that is really quite endearing. Whilst it’s a cancer story, there is so much more to it. It’s a fight for love; a wrestle with demons and ultimately it’s a story about redemption.

By: Lesley Kagen
ISBN: 9781940716558
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication Date: 09/12/2014

Note: There is also a short ebook novella available called The Undertaking of Tess which tells the story of Tess and Birdie’s childhood…

A special thank you to SparkPress and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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