HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 October 2002
In this absorbing and multi-layered can’t-put-it-downer, Collins provides the reader with innumerable vantage points from which to view the lives of Frank Cassidy and his quirky and dysfunctional family, to see life as Frank sees it, and to watch in fascination as each family member grows and changes. Stuck by circumstance and lack of opportunity at the bottom rung of the economic ladder, Frank, "a scavenger at the edge of existence," Honey, and their children leave New Jersey in a series of stolen cars for the Upper Michigan Peninsula, as soon as they discover that Frank’s uncle, who raised him, has died on his farm. An inheritance, however small, could change their lives.
A mystery lies at the heart of the novel. Frank’s parents died in a fire when he was five, and, through hypnosis and, eventually, treatment for a breakdown, he’s come to believe that he and his uncle were both involved in these deaths in some way. Returning to "a town nobody returns to unless under tragic circumstances," Frank starts digging into the past and disrupting lives. On the level of plot alone, the novel is full of excitement, enhanced by vibrant characters with whom one feels great empathy as they wrestle against the circumstances that keep them down, bending the rules, if not breaking them, whenever they can. The vividly described, remote farm environment, the mores of the local community, and the treacherous winter weather generate much of the action and interaction. Collins expands the scope of the novel well beyond plot and melodrama, however, by recreating the ambience of the 1970’s and using Richard Nixon, Watergate, and Jim Jones as thematic motifs which recur throughout the novel and show parallels with his characters and story.
As the title indicates, this is also a novel with religious parallels, so well integrated that many readers may not even notice them, at first. The Prodigal Son, the Book of Job, and the story of Lot’s wife are fairly obvious, while the Parable of the Loaves and Fishes (in this case a trick in which one hits a Coke machine at the right moment to get both the Coke and the money back) may be less so. References to good and evil, hope and despair, death and rebirth, and salvation and resurrection occur throughout, as Frank and his family adapt to life in a small town, try to cope with their internal conflicts, and ultimately to come out ahead.
A beautifully developed novel of big ideas, The Resurrectionists is engaging and, to me, totally satisfying on every level. Though I enjoyed Keepers of Truth, I liked this novel even better—it’s one of my favorite novels of the year. Mary Whipple