The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

Joan Ashby always knew she would become a writer. In a notebook titled How to Do It, the 13-year-old listed the necessary steps for success. "Ignore Eleanor when she tells me I need friends," she wrote, referring to her mother. "Avoid crushes and love. Do not entertain any offer of marriage. Never ever have children. Never allow anyone to get in my way."

When Joan later meets Martin Manning, she finds a like-minded partner who "believes the same as I do--work is paramount, absolutely no children." Her two short story collections have received national acclaim and her first novel is near completion. However, two months after their wedding, Joan is stunned to discover she is pregnant, with Martin's joy "forcing her to find ways to live an unwanted life."

The couple hires a nanny, but the time required for writing amid the all-encompassing nature of motherhood proves elusive. Soon Joan is pregnant again, but still determined to recover her deferred dreams by secretly writing an epic novel that takes years to complete. However, the moment she is finally ready to release her work, after nearly three decades away from the literary world, another devastating betrayal threatens everything.

Who among us hasn't experienced profound disappointment, internal heartbreak and personal sacrifice, whether through parenthood or other circumstances? The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is Cherise Wolas's astonishing debut. By letting Ashby's work stand on its own, Wolas transforms her heroine into an empathetic contemporary. The result is a hunger for more of Wolas's work. Here's hoping her new fans are spared the fate of Ashby's readers, with a wait that is fewer than 28 years. --Melissa Firman, writer and blogger at

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