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Wisconsin Writer Uses Humor To Transcend Pain

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Wisconsin writer Lesley Kagen applies a nostalgic look to difficult circumstances in many of her novels. In her latest title, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, the difficult circumstances come fast and furious.

There’s mental illness, cancer, aging, loneliness and even marital stress. But through it all, Kagen maintains perspective, and often a lighter tone. 

"The only way that I can transcend pain is through humor. One of the most difficult parts of the book, for me writing it, is to keep that in balance," Kagen says.

Like her previous novels, Kagen’s latest is set in Wisconsin – this one in a fictional town just outside Milwaukee, not unlike the town where she now lives.

Kagen will read from her book Boswell Book Company's launch event, which has been rescheduled to Monday, January 19 at 7 p.m.  She recently joined Lake Effect's Dan Harmon to talk about how she not only maintains levity in the face of her characters’ adversity, but how examining the struggle can connect readers to their humanity.

"There are some parallels here of having to hide and to be ashamed and to not let anybody know...the sadness of that just breaks my heart," Kagen says. "I know there are millions of people feeling that way right now - the anxiety, depression, a sense of detachment from others, and the need to present. And when you think about this, nothing could be truer than Shakespeare 'All the world's a stage,' when we're all getting up everyday and pretending to be 'happy.' When wow, I'd like to think of all of us being a little more complex."

Milwaukee native Lesley Kagen’s previous novels include Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces, among others.

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
Dan Harmon was one of the original members of Lake Effect (formerly At Ten). He started at WUWM in November of 1998 and left December of 2015 after 17 years of production.