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The Resurrectionist PDF, ePub eBook At South Carolina Medical College, Dr. Jacob Thacker is on probation for Xanax abuse. His interim career—working university public relations—takes an unnerving detour into the past when the bones of African American slaves are unearthed on campus. In a parallel narrative set in the nineteenth century, Nemo (“no man”), a university slave purchased for his unusual At South Carolina Medical College, Dr. Jacob Thacker is on probation for Xanax abuse. His interim career—working university public relations—takes an unnerving detour into the past when the bones of African American slaves are unearthed on campus. In a parallel narrative set in the nineteenth century, Nemo (“no man”), a university slave purchased for his unusual knife skills, becomes an unacknowledged member of the surgical faculty by day—and by night, a “resurrectionist,” responsible for procuring bodies for medical study. An unforgettable character, by turns apparently insouciant, tormented, and brilliant, Nemo will seize his self-respect in ways no reader can anticipate. With exceptional storytelling pacing and skill, Matthew Guinn weaves together past and present to relate a Southern Gothic tale of shocking crimes and exquisite revenge.

30 review for The Resurrectionist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    Southern literature never strays far from the matter of race, but in The Resurrectionist, Guinn delves into that topic in a way I found unique and well researched. His two protagonists, one pre-Civil War black slave and one 1990s white medical doctor, are linked to the same medical school, and the story seamlessly moves between the two time periods. Nemo the slave robs graves of his fellow African-Americans to help the fledgling medical school and its white masters and doctors-in-training; Dr Ja Southern literature never strays far from the matter of race, but in The Resurrectionist, Guinn delves into that topic in a way I found unique and well researched. His two protagonists, one pre-Civil War black slave and one 1990s white medical doctor, are linked to the same medical school, and the story seamlessly moves between the two time periods. Nemo the slave robs graves of his fellow African-Americans to help the fledgling medical school and its white masters and doctors-in-training; Dr Jacob Thacker must clean up an awkward public relations situation for yet another master, a slick med school dean, when human bones are uncovered during construction work. What was particularly of interest to me was the moral dilemmas each supposedly free man has to confront as he learns at what price, freedom. Nemo struggles within the confines imposed by his freedom – a freedom that includes a “salary” as well as instructor of anatomy. Even in that position, he still has to contend with and accept racial slurs from the white medical school students, many of whom are simply there, not due to having aptitude toward medicine but that they can afford to pay the tuition. He has money to dress well and own a house in the African-American part of town following the war, but his neighbors do not want to associate with him due to the not-so-secret knowledge he is robbing their graves. And his spiritual upbringing poses its own conflict to mores, as what he is doing should be bringing upon him the wrath of ancestors. Jacob is serving his probation time for prescription drug abuse, and he has seemingly gotten off virtually scott free as he is able to remain at the medical school, albeit in a non-practicing capacity and mandated weekly talks with a member of the faculty. How precarious his freedom is becomes evident as he deals with the unfolding nightmare of a tainted period in both the practice of medicine and the South, and he struggles with his own moral compass as he seeks out what to do. Guinn’s writing has a slow musical cadence (one can hear the dialects for each character) and the tone even alters subtly between the time periods, assisting with the shifts that occur virtually every chapter. The description is detailed, and some of the scenes border on the macabre, but it is still an interesting and worthwhile plunge into this particular moment in history.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    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, wh 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    The story is about a Civil War-era slave, Nemo Johnston, owned by a medical college, who is forced to provide cadavers for dissection by digging up deceased slaves. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Nemo is not only the school's ressurectionist, butler, and janitor, but is also a skillful surgeon, and unacknowledged (and unappreciated) teacher of anatomy at the school. The bones of the dissected slaves are disposed of in the school's basement under a thin layer of soil and lime. A h The story is about a Civil War-era slave, Nemo Johnston, owned by a medical college, who is forced to provide cadavers for dissection by digging up deceased slaves. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Nemo is not only the school's ressurectionist, butler, and janitor, but is also a skillful surgeon, and unacknowledged (and unappreciated) teacher of anatomy at the school. The bones of the dissected slaves are disposed of in the school's basement under a thin layer of soil and lime. A hundred and fifty years later, the bones are discovered during renovation of building that housed the anatomy lab, which presents the school with a dilemma about whether to come clean about it's past practices, or cover it up. The dilemma is foisted onto the shoulders of Dr. Jacob Thacker, who is serving as the dean's PR man while he is on probation for prescription drug abuse. The dean wants the matter covered up and holds Jacob's probation as incentive for him to carry out that cover up. As Jacob wrestles with the moral and practical problem, he investigates the school's history, and learns not only more about the school, but about himself as well. This is such an absorbing story, and the fact that it is based in part in fact makes it even more so. I highly recommend this book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Boler

    Impeccably researched and minutely detailed, Matthew Guinn’s first novel The Resurrectionist is mined from the dark and almost-forgotten pages of buried history—literally. During renovations of one of the oldest buildings on the campus of the Medical College of Georgia in 1989, human remains were found in the structure’s cellar. Archaeologist Robert Blakely carefully studied the bones and published his findings in a 1997 book entitled Bones in the Basement: Postmortem Racism in Nineteenth-Centu Impeccably researched and minutely detailed, Matthew Guinn’s first novel The Resurrectionist is mined from the dark and almost-forgotten pages of buried history—literally. During renovations of one of the oldest buildings on the campus of the Medical College of Georgia in 1989, human remains were found in the structure’s cellar. Archaeologist Robert Blakely carefully studied the bones and published his findings in a 1997 book entitled Bones in the Basement: Postmortem Racism in Nineteenth-Century Medical Training. Blakely discovered that the remains were procured for the purposes of dissection and training for the college’s medical students. This was nothing new. A dearth of cadavers existed in the nineteenth century, and both American and Canadian institutions commonly hired people to bring in corpses. But there is a strange twist to this true story. The Medical College of Georgia bought a slave named Grandison Harris just before the Civil War to be their body snatcher, or “resurrectionist” in the jargon of that era. For decades, Harris dug up bodies in Augusta’s African American cemetery. This was not a job he enjoyed, but rather one he endured because he was enslaved. Guinn loosely bases The Resurrectionist on this disconcerting aspect of our history, and it’s both effective and chilling. Guinn begins his tale in 1995 when disgraced doctor Jacob Thacker suffers through probation for abusing Xanax. He has been exiled to public relations at the South Carolina Medical College when workers uncover the bones of African American slaves on campus. Jacob is determined to find out about the college’s shadowy past, even if his dogged pursuit could jeopardize his career. Jacob is really only a small part of Guinn’s story. In my mind, he is a much lesser character compared to the true star of The Resurrectionist: Nemo Johnston, a rich, finely-drawn, and highly nuanced personality. Seven doctors at the South Carolina Medical College hold legal title to him. They are his owners; he is their slave. One of the school’s founders, Dr. Frederick Augustus Johnston, purchased Nemo because of his impressive skills with a knife. Nemo’s main duties, though, are to provide corpses of recently-deceased African American slaves to students. Imagine for a moment what this existence is like for Nemo. When Dr. Johnston bought him, Nemo took on his owner’s last name, an ordinary occurrence of the period. More significant is the fact that Nemo changed his first name. Previously it was Cudjo, a common African name for children born on Monday. Cudjo said good-bye to his original name to become Nemo, which interestingly means “no man.” No man could do what he is doing and live with himself. His responsibility weighs heavily on Nemo as he internalizes the horrors of who and what he has become—a man who robs the graves of his own kind for scientific study. This was yet another way that slaves were degraded and demoralized. Their bodies and their spirits were broken in life only to have their bodies mutilated after death. To put yourself in Nemo’s place is sobering and uncomfortable. “In Africa,” Nemo knows, “he could have expected an instant death for desecrating a grave and disturbing the spirits, and after that death, an eternity of torment from the ancestors and their demons.” Guinn offers us another stunningly terrifying awareness: Nemo has no voice. Nemo knows that a slave is “either a creature of adaptation or just another dead body.” He has adapted simply out of necessity. In one of Guinn’s most incredibly powerful scenes, a student is shocked to learn the corpse he is studying is that of his mother. Instead of producing the body of a slave, Nemo had dug up the body of a recently-deceased white woman. Not surprisingly, there is a hue and cry. The doctors have forgotten the slaves are human; they are all oblivious to the fact these people were once wives, mothers, daughters, husbands, fathers, and sons. Guinn turns the lens to a striking effect. No matter what Nemo does, no matter how he sees himself as inhuman, his actions do not truly reflect on him. Instead, his activities tell more about his slave owners and the school’s doctors than they do about him. Here, Guinn illustrates Aimée Cesaire’s boomerang effect of colonialism: slavery dehumanizes civilized men. Since racial slavery is based on and justified by contempt of the enslaved, anyone who engages in such an act is changed by it. Slaveholders often viewed their slaves as animals and treated them as such, but such an attitude also turned slave owners into animals themselves. In the end, Nemo reclaims his agency and seizes his place, his self-respect, and even his humanity. And Jacob must decide what is important to him, especially when he learns of a connection to those bones in the basement. This Southern Gothic tale fascinated, startled, and unsettled me. By shedding light on real-life body snatcher Grandison Harris, Guinn is himself a resurrection man.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    Sigh. Ok, it's an ARC so keep in mind, some things may change..but it'd have to be alot of editing. Good: historical background, most of the atmosphere, interesting concept. Bad: reallly bad pacing and story development issues; the ending seemed rushed after all the build up, lots of little details that dd up to have big impact on story "just happen" but you don't get enough info about it. I hope editing smooths out the bulk of the issues. I did like the actual historic take, the idea of the sto Sigh. Ok, it's an ARC so keep in mind, some things may change..but it'd have to be alot of editing. Good: historical background, most of the atmosphere, interesting concept. Bad: reallly bad pacing and story development issues; the ending seemed rushed after all the build up, lots of little details that dd up to have big impact on story "just happen" but you don't get enough info about it. I hope editing smooths out the bulk of the issues. I did like the actual historic take, the idea of the story in general - just way too rough for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Goodreads Description- 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 Goodreads Description- 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. The Resurrectionist is mainly the story of the slave Nemo, whose name means "no man which is apropos to his position as slave and resurrectionist to the medical college of Columbia, South Carolina. Nemo was purchased by a Southern medical school to secretly “resurrect”, which means that he basically body snatched the recently dead from their graves and delivered them to the school. For the most part the bodies were African-Americans and were used for dissection in the early days of anatomy classes in the 1800's. In the present day, Dr. Jacob Thacker, of the same medical university, is on probation for prescription drug abuse and working in the PR department when a construction crew finds the bones of these same involuntary cadavers buried in the basement of the original medical building which then builds into a huge controversy of race, morals, ethics, and secrets. Secrets that the African American Community in South Carolina simply can't let the administration of the college to ignore and bury...sorry for the pun. This story is told in chapters switching time between the present and the past. The present is told by Dr. Jacob Thacker who wants to do the right thing but is being strong armed to bribe the African American religious community. The dean is using Dr. Thacker's past addiction to Xanax to push him to do his bidding which will enable to cover up the story. In the alternating chapeters, we follow the history of Nemo, who is as good a surgeon as the dean of the medical school (although never recognized as such, of course) and becomes an unofficial instructor, staying on even after Reconstruction. After some embarrassing events for the school in the 1800's, Dr. Johnston the dean of the medical school, feels forced to retaliate against Nemo to save the reputation of the school and to bury the scandal that will embarrass the school and lower the enrollment numbers. The author stresses that medical schools of old were run for profit and the dean cannot risk losing students, therefore losing money. After the discovery in the basement of bones of African Americans used for dissection, the story runs parallel to that of Nemo's story in the 1800's. The need for a cover up to save the school's reputation. Dr. Thacker and Nemo are faced with similar choices in similar situations, which will no doubt cause controversy in any decision they make. Even though the writing and subject matter can be gruesome at times, I found myself cheering for both Nemo and Thacker because they just want to do the right thing. Told with a brilliant writing style that keeps the reader engaged in the story and connected with the main characters I just cannot believe that this is a debut novel. If this is what we get from Matthew Guinn then I simply cannot wait what he gives his readers next. This is a dynamic story with an unexpected ending that will leave the reader satisfied and looking for more. This is a compelling read that is definitely worthy of a 5 star rating. I cannot wait for Guinn's next work! Absolutely recommended to anyone interested in medical history in the United States. 5 stars!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shana Elliott

    I picked up an Advanced Reader's Copy of this yesterday at the bookstore where I work. It is one of the few perks of the job :) After reading the back cover I was expecting a male variation of The House Girl but I was pleasantly surprised. The Resurrectionist weaves together the stories of Dr. Jacob Thacker, the PR Director of South Carolina Medical School, & Nemo Johnston, a slave purchased by the administrators of the same school right before the Civil War for the sole purpose of stealing corpses for their Anato I picked up an Advanced Reader's Copy of this yesterday at the bookstore where I work. It is one of the few perks of the job :) After reading the back cover I was expecting a male variation of The House Girl but I was pleasantly surprised. The Resurrectionist weaves together the stories of Dr. Jacob Thacker, the PR Director of South Carolina Medical School, & Nemo Johnston, a slave purchased by the administrators of the same school right before the Civil War for the sole purpose of stealing corpses for their Anatomy lab. The story line progresses quickly with just the right amount of detail to keep all levels of readers content. The characters comes to life quickly, and despite a tendency for passive voice the book kept me hooked, and for the first time in several years I literally could not put it down. I couldn't wait until morning to find out how it ends. (which would be why I'm writing this review at 1am) I will be suggesting this book to my customers when it comes out this summer and I hope we will see more fictional work coming from the pen of Matthew Guinn!

  8. 4 out of 5

    John

    The Resurrectionist is a fairly run-of-the-mill novel, dealing with traditional Southern themes: namely, the haunting power of the past. And while it's a very average novel in a lot of ways — there's not much in the form of character development for Jacob, the novel's protagonist, and I never really felt like much was at stake throughout the course of the story — what makes it unique is its exploration into a unique aspect of Southern history. The clandestine body-snatching of African American c The Resurrectionist is a fairly run-of-the-mill novel, dealing with traditional Southern themes: namely, the haunting power of the past. And while it's a very average novel in a lot of ways — there's not much in the form of character development for Jacob, the novel's protagonist, and I never really felt like much was at stake throughout the course of the story — what makes it unique is its exploration into a unique aspect of Southern history. The clandestine body-snatching of African American corpses for dissection by nineteenth-century medical students is an untold story that is rife for exploration in the Southern Gothic tradition, and Guinn's novel makes for an eye-opening reading experience. A decent novel worth reading for its historical worth.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    This debut historical fiction covers the use of cadavers for medical training, and its 1990s setting alternates with Civil War era tales of a South Carolina medical school that employed a negro slave to dig up freshly-buried bodies from the local negro cemetery for use in the anatomy and dissection laboratory in the basement of the school. Much of these Civil War parts of the book cover interactions among three entities: Nemo (the resurrection man), Dr. Johnston, and the barely-qualified medical This debut historical fiction covers the use of cadavers for medical training, and its 1990s setting alternates with Civil War era tales of a South Carolina medical school that employed a negro slave to dig up freshly-buried bodies from the local negro cemetery for use in the anatomy and dissection laboratory in the basement of the school. Much of these Civil War parts of the book cover interactions among three entities: Nemo (the resurrection man), Dr. Johnston, and the barely-qualified medical students of the era. The 1990s portion begins with the discovery of human bones under the old building's basement, when the medical school begins new building projects. There is a young medical doctor (Jacob Thacker) on probation who is forced to serve as the institution's PR person, there is the research librarian who produces the most complete historical records she can find, there is the Dean, and there are many other characters in the more modern portion of this novel. The alternate chapters from both eras give the reader much to think about, and I found this format congenial to the author's plan to unfold two stories set 125 (or so) years apart. I also found myself wondering about the details, some of which were left hidden, just as I suppose an authentic search for history is incomplete, for whatever human insights, records, and so forth that are found leave us wanting more. The author tells at the end of the story what factual materials he used, and I found myself wanting to know more. There are certainly moral lessons to be culled from reading THE RESURRECTIONIST; I found them to be understated, rather than the opposite. This book does IMO require a careful reading by its audience, and it's one of the few books I've noted that I would read again. I think there was more between the lines than I discerned in the first reading of this book. I'd especially like to read this again with my mind focused on the characters as they were drawn. The issues are ones that in 2015 should be clearer, yet concerning to those who want the best medical treatment available. One very short scene in the church during the Civil War era was rich with irony and conviction, for example.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    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 medi 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karen Dowdall

    There is a new author for adult fiction who is an incredibly talented writer. His name is Matthew Guinn. This first novel by Mr. Guinn is story-telling at its best and is beautifully written. I was awestruck by the depth of research that Mr. Guinn engaged in that gives the book its incredible authenticity and you will believe every word of it. I honestly thought I was reading non-fiction about a real life series of events that take your breath away with shock and awe. From out of the past, in th There is a new author for adult fiction who is an incredibly talented writer. His name is Matthew Guinn. This first novel by Mr. Guinn is story-telling at its best and is beautifully written. I was awestruck by the depth of research that Mr. Guinn engaged in that gives the book its incredible authenticity and you will believe every word of it. I honestly thought I was reading non-fiction about a real life series of events that take your breath away with shock and awe. From out of the past, in this intriguing and suspenseful story, comes to light a period of southern history about a time when Medical Colleges often used nefarious ways of collecting bodies for their students. In the middle of this historical period of time, prior to and during the Civil War, people of color were treated not only slaves but as guinea pigs for all kinds of medical “advancements” alive or dead, especially dead. Into this unsavory mix comes a modern day physician, Dr. Jacob Thacker, who has serious ethic problems of his own and adds to those problems by accidently discovering hundreds of human bones hidden away in the cellar of the oldest part of medical college that was presently under re-construction. Through Dr. Thacker’s intense and dangerous research into the past he begins to unravel the mystery of the bones and discovers Nemo, an African Slave who lived more than hundred years ago and posthumously reveals the true nature of things. It soon becomes clear that Dr. Thacker not only is risking is medical degree but his very life. I’m still wondering if this really happened. If you read this book you will be struck by the unnerving feeling that, in fact, this may be much more than fiction.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Martin

    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 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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Fearn

    Dr. Jacob Thacker is on probation for Xanax abuse. While he waits for reinstatement, his acts as the PR director for the South Carolina Medical College. When bones are unearthed in the basement of the school's oldest building the question of the bones' origins spark a crisis for the center. The novel explains the bones in flashbacks to the Civil War era at the school where a young black man is purchased by the school's faculty to act as the institution's resurrectionist or procurer of Dr. Jacob Thacker is on probation for Xanax abuse. While he waits for reinstatement, his acts as the PR director for the South Carolina Medical College. When bones are unearthed in the basement of the school's oldest building the question of the bones' origins spark a crisis for the center. The novel explains the bones in flashbacks to the Civil War era at the school where a young black man is purchased by the school's faculty to act as the institution's resurrectionist or procurer of corpses for the anatomy department. The novel is strongest in it's portrayal of Nemo Johnston, the resurrectionist. His story alone is worth opening the pages of the book. According to the historical notes at the end of the book, Guinn based the story on the 1989 discovery of human remains at the Medical College of Georgia. I'm anxious to read the subsequent book on the discovery, Bones in the Basement : Postmortem Racism in Nineteenth-Century Medical Training by Robert Blakely. Liking novels based on actual historic events, I gave this novel 4 stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I really enjoyed this book. I found both stories compelling which is a challenge when books mix time periods. I often find, when books include substantial flashbacks, that the more modern story feels either forced or shallow. In this case, Jacob's story (the near past) is not as interesting as Nemo's (19th century) but neither is a shallow caricature and the overall story is fascinating. This book made me want to take another crack at Mary Roach's "Stiff" since I wonder if the gruesome grave rob I really enjoyed this book. I found both stories compelling which is a challenge when books mix time periods. I often find, when books include substantial flashbacks, that the more modern story feels either forced or shallow. In this case, Jacob's story (the near past) is not as interesting as Nemo's (19th century) but neither is a shallow caricature and the overall story is fascinating. This book made me want to take another crack at Mary Roach's "Stiff" since I wonder if the gruesome grave robbing is any different or better than what we do to cadavers today in the name of science (with the exception, of course, of consent).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Lots of places have skeletons in the closet. This medical school keeps them in the sub-basement. The novel has some excellent scenes, but at times it felt a little workmanlike - here is the theme, here is the evocative tense change, here is this antebellum set piece, here is the surprise connection. Most of these were in the service of the story, but they still dragged me out of the narrative.

  16. 5 out of 5

    ~ Cheryl ~

    I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced yet thoughtful historical fiction. The writing is not exactly Hemingway, but I felt it got sharper as the author found his footing. At the start I had my doubts; there were a few clunky scenes as the premise was being established. But before long I was totally on board for this story. It’s about one hectic week in the life of Jacob Thacker, a medical doctor riding out a suspension for Xanax abuse as the current PR man for a South Carolina medical s I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced yet thoughtful historical fiction. The writing is not exactly Hemingway, but I felt it got sharper as the author found his footing. At the start I had my doubts; there were a few clunky scenes as the premise was being established. But before long I was totally on board for this story. It’s about one hectic week in the life of Jacob Thacker, a medical doctor riding out a suspension for Xanax abuse as the current PR man for a South Carolina medical school. The school has a long (and, we find out, partially hidden) history. When bones are unearthed in the basement during a construction project, the PR nightmare begins. We follow Jacob’s work and discoveries during this one fateful week. But in alternating chapters, we also get the story of the school and staff in its earliest days, mid-19th century. This gives the events in the present much more significance. Written (it sometimes felt) ready-for-the-screen, it’s structured with all the suspenseful scene changes that are meant to hook you. The pace builds and builds, and truly, by the second half I was looking for hiding places in my house so I could read uninterrupted. I was not sure that this book would be my cup of tea, but I found it to be well-executed, engrossing, and one cracking good read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carla

    A fascinating look at medical school practices in the 19th century South, The Resurrectionist moves the reader from Civil War times to modern day by examining the lives of two professionals who lead very different but nonetheless challenging lives. Jacob Thacker is a 21st century physician who is on probation for substance abuse, while Nemo Johnston is a slave employed by the medical school ostensibly to serve as a janitor and butler. Nemo, however, is more than that -- he's a resurrectionist, o A fascinating look at medical school practices in the 19th century South, The Resurrectionist moves the reader from Civil War times to modern day by examining the lives of two professionals who lead very different but nonetheless challenging lives. Jacob Thacker is a 21st century physician who is on probation for substance abuse, while Nemo Johnston is a slave employed by the medical school ostensibly to serve as a janitor and butler. Nemo, however, is more than that -- he's a resurrectionist, or what we might call a "body-snatcher" today. Jacob's relegation to the administrative side of the medical school puts him front and center to organize work crews and handle PR for the school when human bones are found in the basement, and his research uncovers Nemo Johnston's amazing and macabre story. While this story makes for excellent leisure reading, what is more incredible to me is that Matthew Guinn has based his novel on the true story of a resurrectionist in Georgia who practiced his morbid art during the turn of the 20th century. Even though Guinn's story takes place in Columbia, South Carolina, the geography is unmistakably accurate. If you're familiar with the city, you'll see the events unfold in perfect order before you as you walk the streets of this Carolina city in your mind. The only possible complaint I could have is that the modern day events feel a bit forced. No doubt there are corruption and cover-ups in any post-secondary institution with such an extensive history, but the story line with Thatcher does seem somewhat rushed, disjointed, and unbelievable. If Jacob Thacker had been nothing more than a window into Nemo Johnston's world, then the story would have "worked" for me even better than it already did. Still, I'm glad I decided to spend a day with this book. If you're interested in medical history, Civil War history, or even in just a creepy tale with a few gory details thrown in for good measure, then you'll enjoy Matthew Guinn's novel, The Resurrectionist.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    I really liked this debut novel. The author alternates between two narratives. In one a young doctor is working as the public relations officer for a South Carolina medical school while he completes a suspension for Xanax abuse. When the school starts a renovation, bones are discovered in the basement, and a little research discovers that they come from African-Americans who's cadavers were used for anatomy class in the days just before and after the Civil War. The dean wants the discovery kept I really liked this debut novel. The author alternates between two narratives. In one a young doctor is working as the public relations officer for a South Carolina medical school while he completes a suspension for Xanax abuse. When the school starts a renovation, bones are discovered in the basement, and a little research discovers that they come from African-Americans who's cadavers were used for anatomy class in the days just before and after the Civil War. The dean wants the discovery kept quiet, and tasks Jacob with the job. In the other plot, we meet Nemo Johnston, a slave purchased by the medical school to obtain the bodies of recently deceased blacks. In an era when medical schools are run for profit, and the bodies of most people are off limits, anatomy practice has been performed previously on goats, and that's not attracting many paying students. Nemo, a skilled hunter, picks up the skills of grave robbing and anatomy quickly. During and after the Civil War he stays on, as he's being treated and paid (comparatively) well. He eventually rises to become the school's de facto anatomy instructor, but it's a tenuous position, complicated when a particularly spoiled, difficult, and racist student comes to the school. The ideas explored here were fascinating to me, and the book reads quickly, almost like a thriller. The historical plot line was particularly good. I only mark it down by a star because I wanted a little more at times. It rang true for me historically except for Nemo becoming the anatomy instructor. In that time period, that idea seemed a bit far fetched. At the least, it needed a little more motivation to be believable. A subplot about Jacob's grandmother being a nurse at the school also needed a little more attention to be effective. But overall, I recommend this book highly. It balances historical fiction, ethical questions, and a few thrills (nice denouements for both plot lines) well.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nancy McKibben

    The Resurrectionist By Matthew Gunn The Resurrectionist is chiefly the story of the slave Nemo, purchased by a Southern medical school to secretly “resurrect” the bodies of African-Americans for dissection. In the present day, Dr. Jacob Thacker of the same medical university is on probation for prescription drug abuse and working in the PR department in the interim, when a construction crew finds the bones of these same involuntary cadavers buried in the basement of the original medical building. While the/>The The Resurrectionist By Matthew Gunn The Resurrectionist is chiefly the story of the slave Nemo, purchased by a Southern medical school to secretly “resurrect” the bodies of African-Americans for dissection. In the present day, Dr. Jacob Thacker of the same medical university is on probation for prescription drug abuse and working in the PR department in the interim, when a construction crew finds the bones of these same involuntary cadavers buried in the basement of the original medical building. While the present day medical administration scrambles to effect a cover-up of this embarrassing revelation, we follow the history of Nemo, who is as good a surgeon as the dean of the medical school (although never recognized as such, of course) and becomes a de facto instructor, staying on even after Reconstruction. Since we are familiar with spin doctors - pardon the pun - and the knee-jerk reaction to hide any scandal, we are more interested in Nemo’s story, although the reader winces at some of the passages in which the African-American must bow to the ignorance of certain white medical students. But Nemo knows what he knows and who he is and the reader will be cheering him on even as her jaw drops at the surprise ending. To his credit, the author provides an unexpected ending to the present day story as well, but Nemo is certainly the star of the book. Given the cover and the title, I was expecting a story more in the vein of The Alienist. But The Resurrectionist holds its own in a different way, and its story of revenge and restitution makes a compelling read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Bufkin

    I absolutely LOVED this book. I randomly found it through BookBub, and I was absolutely NOT disappointed. I was afraid that because I know the city/setting that I would be too hyper-critical, but that wasn't the case at all. As a resident of Columbia, the amount of detail in describing the city both in the Civil War era and present times was astounding and accurate. There were scenes where the main character was driving to other locations and I felt I was in the car with him, not just I absolutely LOVED this book. I randomly found it through BookBub, and I was absolutely NOT disappointed. I was afraid that because I know the city/setting that I would be too hyper-critical, but that wasn't the case at all. As a resident of Columbia, the amount of detail in describing the city both in the Civil War era and present times was astounding and accurate. There were scenes where the main character was driving to other locations and I felt I was in the car with him, not just because of the description of his surroundings, but also because of the way Matthew Guinn wove his words and imagery together to paint a picture. The idea of body-snatching is one that I haven't spent a lot of time reading about or researching, but I'm not naive enough to say it didn't happen and that the deceased slaves were the easiest to prey upon, especially in a booming city such as Columbia in the Civil War era where almost every landowner had multiple slaves and the type of industry in the city lead to cheap/free labor in droves. I recommend this book to anyone looking to get an inside view of the way medical universities were run before we had standardized testing practices and to anyone who enjoys an amazing story that gives you both a past and present time way to relate to the characters. I'll definitely be reading more by Mr. Guinn!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pam Butts

    A lot of times when I read stories that are told in multiple eras, I like one story line and not the other, or they connect too neatly. However, I thought both of the stories intertwined in this book were equally compelling and learned much about the history of medical training. The stories moved at a good pace and I always like a satisfactory ending.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Arlene

    For those who are not in the medical field you may not be aware that doctors dissect cadavers in med school in order to learn about the body. So if you are squeamish, this is not the book for you. I was fascinated by this story, switching between the 1860s and the 1990s. I read the book in one day! I was unaware that resurrectionist is a term for the person who procured bodies for the medical schools back in the 1800s. Nemo Johnston is a slave who was purchased to do the dirty work of the Univer For those who are not in the medical field you may not be aware that doctors dissect cadavers in med school in order to learn about the body. So if you are squeamish, this is not the book for you. I was fascinated by this story, switching between the 1860s and the 1990s. I read the book in one day! I was unaware that resurrectionist is a term for the person who procured bodies for the medical schools back in the 1800s. Nemo Johnston is a slave who was purchased to do the dirty work of the University of South Carolina Medical School. At night, he robbed graves so that the white med school students had cadavers to study. While this is a fictional novel it is based on a similar incident at The Medical School of Georgia. In the 1990's the bones of the discarded cadavers are found in the basement of the med school, causing a scandal. Jacob Thacker is the PR person for the school and it is up to him to take care of it or take the fall for it! Jake is on probation for two years as he was a physiician who fell into a Xanax addiction from the stress of his job. He knows what should be done but has a hard time convincing the dean of the med school to do the right thing. There are many twists and turns in this story as it comes to a final gripping conclusion.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    ARC received in Goodreads giveaway. A solid entry into Southern gothic fiction with a memorable character in the slave Nemo Johnston, who is purchased by a Civil-war era medical school to be their resurrectionist,i.e. body snatcher, in order to supply fresh cadavers for anatomy dissection.The narrative alternates time frames between the harsh, gruesome, yet oddly redemptive life of an intelligent black man, caught in the confines of a struggling medical school(back in the day, the ability ARC received in Goodreads giveaway. A solid entry into Southern gothic fiction with a memorable character in the slave Nemo Johnston, who is purchased by a Civil-war era medical school to be their resurrectionist,i.e. body snatcher, in order to supply fresh cadavers for anatomy dissection.The narrative alternates time frames between the harsh, gruesome, yet oddly redemptive life of an intelligent black man, caught in the confines of a struggling medical school(back in the day, the ability to pay tuition meant a lot more than having a talent for medicine,hence some pretty bad doctors were taught and delivered to the world) and the modern day problems of a young doctor,on probation for drug abuse and paying his dues as that same medical school's PR director, who unwittingly finds the hidden evidence of Nemo's century old work.What to do when the accepted, abusive practices of the past collide with modern sensibility and efforts at racial equality/healing? It's a good first effort and an entertaining 9if graphic) read, with a few zinging surprises. The author was reportedly a personal assistant to the lat great James Dickey;let's hope he learned more from the master, for future reference.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads. The book goes back and forth between two protagonists Jacob of present day and Nemo of the mid 19th century. Jacob is the medical school PR guy after being put on probation for bad behavior and Nemo is a slave bought by the medical school to perform a dirty deed. As a reader I never knew about these atrocities that occurred in the past so the book was captivating. The whiskey barrel scene awed me and the final medical experiment Received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads. The book goes back and forth between two protagonists Jacob of present day and Nemo of the mid 19th century. Jacob is the medical school PR guy after being put on probation for bad behavior and Nemo is a slave bought by the medical school to perform a dirty deed. As a reader I never knew about these atrocities that occurred in the past so the book was captivating. The whiskey barrel scene awed me and the final medical experiment traumatized me. The recreation of the era past was the best part of the story and so well told. Slow moments mostly fell on the office moments with Jacob. While I understand how Jacob was integral to telling the whole story as a character he wasn’t that remarkable. Even with his connection to the past and his ties to the school there wasn’t much there. Also there are a couple of romances with one being completely unnecessary and the other giving just a bit of hope. I really enjoyed this and found it an intriguing read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John Buissink

    This book grabbed my attention as it begins by painting a picture of a small southern medical college that has to deal with a delicate situation when human bones are found buried in the basement. They are the bones of black people who were the cadavers that were used to help train the students. This leads to an added racial undercurrent that must be dealt with before the story can end. The book splits into two parts, a 19th century historical tale intertwined with the 20th century mystery. This book grabbed my attention as it begins by painting a picture of a small southern medical college that has to deal with a delicate situation when human bones are found buried in the basement. They are the bones of black people who were the cadavers that were used to help train the students. This leads to an added racial undercurrent that must be dealt with before the story can end. The book splits into two parts, a 19th century historical tale intertwined with the 20th century mystery. The author allows us into the lives of the medical students of the college as well as the resurrectionist, a black slave who is instrumental in creating the history and the mystery surrounding the bones. As the story evolves, the reader is presented with many interesting opportunities to decide the rightness of the characters' actions. Definitely a book that allows for spirited discussion. I received this book for free on goodreads.com.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan Obryan

    One of the South’s most anticipated novels is Matthew Guinn’s “The Resurrectionist,” due to be published July 8. For his debut novel, Guinn, who lives in the Jackson area, has combined fact and fiction to create an engrossing tale that weaves past actions with present circumstances. Dr. Jack Thacker is working in a South Carolina academic medical center’s PR department as he goes through counseling for drug use. When bodies are discovered in the basement during an expansion project, he learns th One of the South’s most anticipated novels is Matthew Guinn’s “The Resurrectionist,” due to be published July 8. For his debut novel, Guinn, who lives in the Jackson area, has combined fact and fiction to create an engrossing tale that weaves past actions with present circumstances. Dr. Jack Thacker is working in a South Carolina academic medical center’s PR department as he goes through counseling for drug use. When bodies are discovered in the basement during an expansion project, he learns that the school once owned a slave, Nemo Johnston, who had the task of providing the school with cadavers for its students. The bodies were stolen from the nearby African-American graveyard. Guinn’s novel alternates chapters between the lives of Thacker and Nemo, emphasizing that few things are as they seem. It raises moral and revenge questions as well as those of who knew what and when they knew it. In many ways, the author leaves the final answer to readers’ consciences.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    An expertly told story of university politics with the backdrop of a historical scandal, The Resurrectionist tells the story of a stately medical school whose skeletons are not buried quite as deeply as some may want to believe. The plot begins at the end of the 20th century but transitions smoothly to a backstory that takes place in the mid 19th century—a peculiar time in the region, in that it was the last days of legal slavery in the South. Likewise, the grotesque descriptions of medical practice An expertly told story of university politics with the backdrop of a historical scandal, The Resurrectionist tells the story of a stately medical school whose skeletons are not buried quite as deeply as some may want to believe. The plot begins at the end of the 20th century but transitions smoothly to a backstory that takes place in the mid 19th century—a peculiar time in the region, in that it was the last days of legal slavery in the South. Likewise, the grotesque descriptions of medical practices are taken straight out of history—a time when modern medicine was making great strides forward while still holding on to some primitive practices, such as blistering and bleeding, that today seem more macabre than medicine. The contrast between the two narratives allows the reader to consider how far (or not) we’ve come, scientifically and culturally, in the generations between the two stories.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gayl

    My husband won this book in the First Reads Giveaway and recommended that I read it. Great book! The book's chapters alternate between modern times and mid-1850s, and the type-font changes to help signify the change. There is a lot going on in the story including early medical school practices, slavery in the South, women's suffrage, and ethics. I don't often want to read a book more than once, but this is one of those books that I'm thinking that I'd like to go back through it again. In other w My husband won this book in the First Reads Giveaway and recommended that I read it. Great book! The book's chapters alternate between modern times and mid-1850s, and the type-font changes to help signify the change. There is a lot going on in the story including early medical school practices, slavery in the South, women's suffrage, and ethics. I don't often want to read a book more than once, but this is one of those books that I'm thinking that I'd like to go back through it again. In other words, I'm not likely to give the book away either, and I'm thinking about presenting it to my book group. If you like historical fiction or want something more than just a book to entertain, grab this one!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marne Wilson

    I liked this book more than I expected to at first. Guinn is a capable writer, which made this book an easy read. I'd never thought much about what goes on behind the scenes at a medical school, and this story gave me two interesting views of it, one present and one past. The reason I'm only giving it three stars is that it seemed to me that Guinn should have paid more attention to his plotting. Everything made sense, but the stakes just weren't very high for either main character, and in the en I liked this book more than I expected to at first. Guinn is a capable writer, which made this book an easy read. I'd never thought much about what goes on behind the scenes at a medical school, and this story gave me two interesting views of it, one present and one past. The reason I'm only giving it three stars is that it seemed to me that Guinn should have paid more attention to his plotting. Everything made sense, but the stakes just weren't very high for either main character, and in the end, I didn't care much about what happened to either of them. Also, there were a few other distracting subplots that didn't really go anywhere. (Note: I won an advance reading copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    Good storytelling -- during present day and the Civil War -- about a South Carolina medical school with a PR problem: the bones of former slaves found in the basement of the building where doctors-in-training used to practice with cadavers. Thought-provoking -- and sometimes appalling -- look at what passed for medical training during that period of history and the huge social divide that came back to haunt a present-day institution. But both Nemo, the resurrectionist (body snatcher) and Dr. Jac Good storytelling -- during present day and the Civil War -- about a South Carolina medical school with a PR problem: the bones of former slaves found in the basement of the building where doctors-in-training used to practice with cadavers. Thought-provoking -- and sometimes appalling -- look at what passed for medical training during that period of history and the huge social divide that came back to haunt a present-day institution. But both Nemo, the resurrectionist (body snatcher) and Dr. Jacob Thatcher, our present-day hero, are trapped by their respective political environments and appear to be given few choices of action by the men for whom they work. An enjoyable read.

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