STARRED REVIEW
September 2017

A woman’s work

By Cherise Wolas
Review by

“Children are not on the table,” Joan Ashby tells her future husband, Martin. “I possess no need, primal or otherwise, for motherhood.” This is no surprise, given Joan’s white-hot career as a writer of short stories—and her own lonely childhood with two loveless parents. Yet, when she finds herself pregnant shortly after she and Martin marry, she sets aside her fame to raise one, then two boys in the suburban Virginia town of Rhome.

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“Children are not on the table,” Joan Ashby tells her future husband, Martin. “I possess no need, primal or otherwise, for motherhood.” This is no surprise, given Joan’s white-hot career as a writer of short stories—and her own lonely childhood with two loveless parents. Yet, when she finds herself pregnant shortly after she and Martin marry, she sets aside her fame to raise one, then two boys in the suburban Virginia town of Rhome.

While Martin’s soaring surgical career takes him around the world, the famous Joan Ashby becomes Joan Manning, a housewife who takes yoga classes and shuttles her boys to school and swim lessons. She tells no one when, during the days while the boys are at school, she comes back to her writing. To her, the act of writing is “exquisitely important, so much like prayer.” Over nearly a decade, she writes a remarkable novel that she feels sure will signal her return as a force in the literary world.

But the time never seems right to publish. Younger son Eric blossoms into a gifted computer programmer who makes his first million (and many more) while still a teenager. Joan finds herself a stranger in her own home when a gaggle of coders move in seemingly overnight, much to Martin’s delight.

In a family of extraordinarily accomplished people, Joan’s other son, Daniel, struggles to find his identity. After showing early promise as a writer, a well-meaning teacher mentions Daniel’s mother’s fame. Daunted, he sets aside his stories and embarks on an ill-suited career in venture capital.

After a breathtaking betrayal threatens to fracture the family, Joan retreats to India and reclaims a room of her own.

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.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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