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The Resurrectionist: A Novel by Matthew…

The Resurrectionist: A Novel

by Matthew Guinn

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136588,280 (3.63)4



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Dr. Jacob Thacker is reassigned to work on his South Carolina medical school's public relations team after he is caught abusing prescription drugs during his residency. Nearing the end of his probation, construction workers discover bones from what appears to be dissected bodies below the school, triggering a potential PR crisis Jacob is unprepared to handle. He soon uncovers the history of Nemo Johnston, a slave purchased by the school for the purpose of "resurrecting" bodies to be used in medical training. As Jacob unravels details of his school's dark past, he must decide if he will put sharing the truth before his own success.

The Resurrectionist is written in sections that alternate between present day and the Civil War Era, weaving Jacob and Nemo Johnston's stories together. While this works in a narrative sense, it also reveals one of the novel's weaknesses: Guinn's voice is much more suited to the Civil War timeline than present day. The writing in Nemo's story feels natural and is filled with passages you would expect from a great piece of Southern Gothic fiction. In comparison, Jacob's chapters feel slightly unsure and almost clunky, particularly in dialogue. I desperately wish I could pick out Nemo's plot and create a separate novel; it would make an incredibly fascinating, well-written story.

Though I knew to expect a modern timeline, I suppose I was hoping for a majority of the novel to take place in the past. For those who go into The Resurrectionist anticipating the alternating narratives, the contrast will likely be less jarring and hopefully the book will be more enjoyable. ( )
  rivercityreading | Aug 10, 2015 |
A young medical resident serving out his probation for Xanax abuse by handling public relations for his medical school dean has a choice to make when some campus digging uncovers the bones of dissected African American slaves. Evidently, they had been snatched in the pre-Civil War era by "resurrectionists" paid by the school to find fresh corpses for anatomy training. Summary BPL

What makes this grave-robbing-for-medical-purposes story a compelling read is that the "resurrectionist" and his victims were African American. Not only does Nemo Johnston dig up the bodies, he also prepares them for anatomy classes he himself directs. At a whites only medical college in the southern U.S.
Based on a real life 19th century African American resurrectionist, the novel is well researched historically and medically. Some reviews have described it "grisly" or "souther gothic"; I found it psychologically true to its time and context.

7.5 out of 10 Highly recommended to readers of American and medical history. ( )
  julie10reads | Nov 24, 2013 |
This was a 3.5 read for me but I rounded up because the subject matter.

Stories within a story seem to be popular now to help make sense of the past and the present. Guinn’s debut novel provides insight into another disquieting aspect of slavery and how this past affects our ability to be truthful in the present.
Reading the premise and seeing the format of the book – it initially reminded me of The House Girl – a book set in the present and past, told in alternating chapters, where there is a different protagonist in the present and in the past – but the present time white protagonist will “control” what will be known about past black protagonist. But while The House Girl frizzled in the middle and end, The Resurrectionist gets better the more you read. After what I will say a slow jaunty first chapter the storyline, writing and pacing smoothed out and I became more interested in the story.
While it is disturbing to read/know about how bodies were obtained for medical students to practice on (and the book does not go into gross details) but without the bodies there would not be the advancements. The most disturbing part was that everyone in the slave community knew who the resurrectionist was and that he had no choice in what he was doing when he “raided” the slave cemeteries. In some ways Nemo, the resurrectionist reminded me of the character Washington (from the book Wash) – preformed a disturbing act but somehow had to manage how to maintain their own dignity within the black/slave community.
There were a couple of twists at the end that helped elevate this story above the average. And I appreciated that the author showed a different aspect of the contribution of slaves to the past.
I look forward to reading future works by the author. ( )
  bookmuse56 | Aug 12, 2013 |
Nemo Johnston is a slave owned by a southern medical school during the Civil War/Reconstruction Era, whose job it is to provide cadavers for the medical school by digging up the bodies of recently deceased slaves. Nemo also serves the school as its butler, janitor, and unacknowledged anatomy instructor. He is a skillful surgeon (though not formally educated as such), and a wise man in many ways. The bones of the dissected slaves are disposed of in the school's basement, layered with soil and lime. A hundred and fifty years later, the bones are discovered during renovation of the building that once housed the anatomy lab. As word gets out, the school is faced with the decision of whether to come clean about it's dark past practices or to cover it up. The dean wants the matter covered up & the problem falls to Dr. Jacob Thacker, on probation for prescription drug abuse and currently assigned to handle PR for the dean. As Jacob wrestles with the moral and practical problems surrounding the bones, his investigation uncovers many dark truths about the school, his relationship to it, and about his own family. This is a truly absorbing work of fiction, all the more so because it is based at least in part on fact. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  Lettypearl | Jul 28, 2013 |
This was a fascinating book that talks about the early practices at medical schools and current political cover ups when those practices are brought to light.

In the 1999 portion of the story, Jacob Thacker is working PR for his medical school as he serves out a suspension for drug abuse when bones are discovered in the basement. The bones of those of primarily black people who were used for teaching of the medical students in the pre and post Civil War era. Their existence is a PR nightmare for the Dean of the school for whom the school's untarnished image is paramount.

The second part of the story tells the story of the early days of the medical school and the black man named Nemo Johnston who was purchased to be the school's janitor, butler, and resurrectionist. He was charged with raiding the black cemeteries to supply the cadavers the medical students needed to learn anatomy and surgery. His portion of the story gives great insight into what it was like for a black slave in that time period. Nemo was atypical in that he was educated and knowledgeable. He even taught the anatomy classes but still did all the menial work too.

Jacob learns a lot, even about his own family, when he begins to research the history of the school. He has lots of pressure on him to do the cover up. In fact, his future in medicine depends on it. This parallels the pressure put on Nemo Johnston in earlier times.

The story was well-written and engaging and it was in interesting look at a time with attitudes much different than now. ( )
  kmartin802 | Jul 8, 2013 |
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For two who kept this one alive:
Joe Hickman
Braiden Guinn
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Dog days and the fresh bodies are arriving once again.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
This is Mad-men Seeking the Secrets of the Universe.

This is the Entity at Christ’s Crucifixion.

This is Satan at His Most Magic.

This is Mans’ Predicted End.

This is FBI Agent:

When Charlie O’Hare, an Irish detective sergeant and partner of Lieutenant Frank Weinberg of the 1920s New York Police Department; working Manhattan’s Lower East Side become involved with Marco Giuseppi, an Italian criminal and child abductor, little does he realise it will turn into a career for life and beyond. While trying to save the daughter of an Aleut Eskimo woman, and her Russian husband from Giuseppi, the two officers witness a supernatural occurrence. Unable to speak of the event, and determined to find the abducted girl, the two carry out their investigations against unknown forces that are allowing Giuseppi free reign to continue his trade in children.
Unknown to Charlie and Frank; hidden in the fabric of the US government, a brotherhood from Rome on a 2000 year-old quest – the entrapment for the knowledge it possesses of The Resurrectionist, the saviour of souls: the entity seen at Christ’s crucifixion – will thwart their every effort.
This fast moving story of intrigue will see the bedrock of Christian-Judaism ground to dust before being recast; with the climax, the President of the United States of America, the God fearing, Henry Clancy Montgomery III, having to make a leap of faith: to run with Satan and eternal damnation, or risk wiping mankind from the face of the earth with his soul intact.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393239314, Hardcover)

A young doctor wrestles with the legacy of a slave “resurrectionist” owned by his South Carolina medical school.

Nemo Johnston was one of many Civil War–era “resurrectionists” responsible for procuring human corpses for doctors’ anatomy training. More than a century later, Dr. Jacob Thacker, a young medical resident on probation for Xanax abuse and assigned to work public relations for his medical school’s dean, finds himself facing a moral dilemma when a campus renovation unearths the bones of dissected African American slaves—a potential PR disaster for the school. Will Jacob, still a stranger to his own history, continue to be complicit in the dean’s cover-up or will he risk his entire career to force the school to face its dark past?

First-time novelist Matthew Guinn deftly weaves historical and fictional truth, salted with contemporary social satire, and traditional Southern Gothic into a tale of shocking crimes and exquisite revenge—and a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining moral parable of the South.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:14 -0400)

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A young doctor wrestles with the legacy of a slave "resurrectionist" owned by his South Carolina medical school.

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