Click here to read reviewer Sonia Chopra's take on The Resurrectionists.
Frank Cassidy is a fringe-dweller, existing on the edges of society in a succession of demeaning jobs, married to a woman with an ex-husband on death row, an angst-riddled stepson waiting for his father to be executed and an innocent pre-schooler obsessed with a parade of toy dinosaurs.
Frank’s desperate lifestyle is a relic of his childhood; his father and mother were killed in a fire that erupted on the family farm when Frank was only five years old. His memories of that event are shadowed with confusion, the vague threat of his uncle who raised Frank as one of his own, and the psychological evaluations the doctor hoped would unlock Frank’s fragmented memory on the night of the conflagration.
Frank leaves the farm and all family connections behind as soon as he is able, making his way in a hostile environment with no patience for an emotionally damaged survivor. Since then, his life has been a series of misdemeanors that barely escape the notice of authorities. Frank views his occasional petty crimes as the natural evolution of a careful society, like car theft, his deeds “preordained statistical probability,” but refuses to believe that “stupidity and desperation equate to evil.”
When he reads of his uncle’s murder, Frank gathers his family and heads for the past, a dark trek from New Jersey to the vast, empty cold of the far north in Michigan. Along the way, Frank telephones his cousin at the farm, arguing about the purpose of the trip and the resolution of a shattered history. For Frank, this journey is like poking a stick at a bad tooth as painful memories surge, taunting and confusing his every action, his haunted youth returning with savage intensity.
At each phase of his odyssey, Frank is beset by images and memories, the flickering light of a television screen in a starless night, black and white reruns the backdrop for a tragedy buried in his subconscious that fills him with a vague sense of guilt, a mistrust of his own motivations. He makes his way back to the kind of town nobody would willingly return to unless called by tragedy or loss. Those who live in this place know despair, inhabiting frozen days of minimal needs and obligations, waiting for the thaw.
Thirty years later, Frank revisits the chaos of his youth. Both distressed and comforted by a suffering family he can barely provide for, Frank plunges into what remains of his childhood world, forced to redefine time and place, to make a stand in this frozen wilderness, drawing courage from his own need for resolution and the love of his dysfunctional family. He does so with consummate grace, a tragic character cart-wheeling through free-associative hell on a collision course with the truth.
In shadowed and disturbing prose, the author exposes the painful underbelly of American life, where the have-nots gather around a burning trash can in hopes of warmth in an indifferent landscape.