The Resurrection of Tess Blessing is by turns heartbreaking and heartwarming, emotional, perceptive, slightly magical, and funny. It’s a redemptive story about second chances and realizing what—and who—is really important, before it’s too late.
After she is diagnosed with breast cancer, fifty-one-year-old Tess sets forth on a mission to complete her final “to-do” list before, what she’s sure is, her impending death. She needs to make peace with her estranged sister, say goodbye to her mother’s long-kept ashes that she keeps in the garage, rescue her daughter from the grip of an eating disorder, help her son grow-up, and reignite the spark in her marriage. One factor she never considers is that she might have to stick around and deal with her handiwork.
Tess is aided on her quest by narrator, Grace, who lends the story its most brilliant elements: subtle magical realism and deep psychological complexity. Is Grace an “imaginary friend,” guardian angel, or a part of Tess who knows better than she?
The Resurrection of Tess Blessing is authentic, funny, sad, and at its heart… redemptive.
Poor Theresa ("call me Tess") Blessing. There is a lot on her plate. She had a pretty rotten childhood. She blames herself for her father's death. Her mother Louise was alternately neglectful and abusive to both her and her sister Robin. No wonder both girls grew up to have diagnoses of various mental illnesses.
Now, years later, along with her own demons of PTSD and agoraphobia, she receives a diagnosis of breast cancer. She doesn't tell her husband because she suspects he may be having an affair. She doesn't tell her daughter, because she has anorexia. She doesn't tell her son whom she worries is too young and sensitive.
Having lived with depression since my teen years, I can sympathize with some of the things Tess feels and encounters. I will move mountains to stay out of WalMart on the first of the month because of the large influx of people cashing government checks. (I'm not judging them, but it feels like Black Friday once a month.)
I think the narrator Grace will appear as different beings to different readers; specifically, she will be whomever each reader needs her to be as they read "The Resurrection of Tess Blessing". For me she is at least 50% guardian angel. Kagen writes Tess with great patience and empathy. I, for one, am glad that she writes about people with mental illness diagnoses in this way. We're not all ticking time bombs; nor are we contagious. But there is so much prejudice and misinformation.
And Tess makes great strides during the course of the book. Her "To Do" list changes, as some things get crossed out, amended and/or added.
If you are feeling less than 100%, this is a great book for you to read. It's kind of like listening to music to suit the mood you are in and gradually changing to music that reflects the mood in which you would like to be - music therapy. And if you are feeling on top of the world, "Tess Blessing" will bolster that feeling as well as give you a deeper understanding of personal struggles being faced by some of the people with whom you come in contact.
Tess will probably appeal more to women than men, but the lessons embedded in this wonderful story apply across gender lines. Kagen was a new-to-me author when I started this book; now I will be looking forward to reading more of her work.
Lesley Kagen is an actress, voice-over talent, former restaurateur, sought-after speaker, and award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of five previous novels. Her work has been translated into seven languages. A mother of two and grandmother of two, she lives in a hundred-year-old farm house in a small town in Wisconsin.
(Disclosure: I received a copy of "The Resurrection of Tess Blessing" by Leslie Kagen from the author and publishers via "BookSparks" in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)