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The Undertaking of Tess

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  381 ratings  ·  52 reviews
From New York Times bestselling author Lesley Kagen. Four months on Amazon's Top 100 women's fiction/sister list!

During the summer of 1959, ten-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley has her work cut out for her. Not only is she attempting to come to grips with the devastating loss and guilt she feels after she witnessed her father’s drowning, but her kid sister, Birdie, refuses
Published July 29th 2014 by SparkPress (first published July 24th 2014)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  381 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
A novella, The Undertaking of Tess showcases what author Lesley Kagen does best. Presenting mischievous child protagonists that protect their younger siblings. The story reminded me of Whistling in the Dark so much that I felt Tess was really just another Sally O'Malley and Birdie was another Troo. Both sets of girls lose their fathers to tragedy and both have a man crazy Irish mother that cannot cook. For that lack of originality, I just cannot give this book a rating of higher than 2 stars.
Judy D Collins
The Finley Sisters are guaranteed to steal your heart, as you laugh out loud with Lesley Kagen’s bittersweet novella, THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS, and double your pleasure, with a continuation of this dynamic duo in THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING.

In the summer of 1959, in Milwaukee there are two sisters, not yet teens, both OCD; Tess with her daily routine of making lists (and keeping them updated daily) with:

• Her To-Do Lists (love the strikeouts, when she accomplishes the item or no longer
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Known for her distinct narratives told through a child’s eyes, Lesley Kagen delves deep inside the mind of young Tess Finley. Tess tries to sort through her confusion and sorrow surrounding a family tragedy while watching over, and protecting, her emotionally unstable sister, Birdie. The voice and inner thoughts of Tess are so wonderful that I laughed and wept, often while reading the same page. Her observations of the convoluted adult world through which she must navigate are tender and heartbr ...more
This was a short novella, I wanted to read before I start the follow up novel, The Resurrection Of Tess Blessing. I always enjoy Lesley Kagen's characters, and this funny little Tess made me laugh out loud several times. It's also set back in the 1950s in Milwaukee, which reminds me of when I was growing up. I'm looking forward to reading her next book soon!
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is set in 1959 with two sisters Tessie and Birdie. Their father dies unexpectedly while fishing with Tessie, but his body is never found. The story is told by Tessie age 11 and how she tries to convince her younger sister Birdie that their father is indeed gone forever. It was quite an undertaking for her, but she did an excellent job of it.
I enjoyed the way it was written and how the story twists and turns. This is a prequel to The Resurrection of Tess Blessing which I am looking forw
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-loved
Lesley Kagen is a master at writing stories with a cast of characters that you can't help but to love. I fall into her stories with such ease and they always leave an impression on me. The Undertaking of Tess is another wonderful story by an extraordinary author!
Jayne Burnett
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Two delightful young girls Tess & Birdie have just lost their father. Their mother is planning to find a new husband. Tess is trying to make it real for her sister that their daddy is dead. A lovely read and I look forward to reading The Resurrection of Tess Blessing ...more
McGuffy Morris
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Undertaking of Tess is a poignant novella. This powerful little book gives the background of Tess, telling the story of her childhood. The story of Tess continues in the beautiful novel, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing. I recommend all of Lesley Kagen’s novels. She never disappoints.
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a book who's message is about forgiving ourselves and letting go.
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read...a lot....and Lesley Kagen is one of my very favorite authors. Many thanks to her for providing me a copy of her ebook. To avoid spoilers, I will not summarize the story here as a synopsis is readily available. Her characters are so well-written that regardless of one's upbringing, reading her work is like being swept away on an adventure with a childhood friend. Her stories have it all: compelling characters telling a gripping story, with dashes of humor and mystery to sweeten the deal. ...more
Mrs Mommy Booknerd
Kagen does it again!!!! The Undertaking of Tess is a brilliant and haunting tale of the Finley sisters and their quest to maneuver through their unpredictable world, a world plagued by loss, guilt and in the end growth. Tessie's has her trusty to-do list and she is determined to keep her sister safe and face all the challenges that come her way. With Kagen's keen observation of the spirit of youth, brilliant dialogue and well placed humor The Undertaking of Tess is another 5 star HIT!!! A must r ...more
Brenda Roberson
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS is a brilliant and haunting tale of the Finley sisters (Tess and Birdie) in their quest to maneuver through an unpredictable world. Their world is plagued by loss, guilt and in the end growth. Tess has her trusty to-do list, which keeps her "on track" and she is determined to keep her sister (who is mentally challenged) safe and face all the challenges that come her way.

This book is told in the view point of a child which makes it a reading challenge at times but endearin
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
I loved this little book about sisters, Tessie and Birdie. At the very beginning of the book Tessie witnesses an accident that causes her a lot of guilt and confusion about what happened, what didn't happen and her reaction. The sisters are very close and when Birdie is in deep denial regarding the accident, Tessie tries to set her right.

I loved them. They reminded me a little of Me & Emma only not as harsh of a story so the whole time I kept thinking I was going to get duped. lol

The story is to
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won a copy of The Undertaking of Tess during a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Written from 10 year old Tessie's perspective, this book follows Tess after she witnesses the accidental drowning of her father. This is a well imagined and sometimes humorous look at life through a young child's eyes, one who has to deal with her mother's anger and her sister's fragility. I can visualize the young girl who has to write her lists and who worries that Mom will take her sister to an asylum for refusin
Susan Peterson
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delightful story

Tess Blessing is fishing with her father when he dies in a tragic accident. After his death it's up to Tess to take care of her little sister, Birdie, who isn't convinced that their daddy died. The girls' mother, Louise, is a mother in name only, so the girls must rely on each other to get through the changes in their lives. Tess is such a character, and the way she uses her sense of humor to help her sister cope is so sweet and poignant. Taking place in 1959, this story is also
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strong four. What an interesting prequel. It took me a bit to get into the rhythm of the book, written from young Tess' viewpoint. However, once I adjusted to that, I absolutely adored the 1950s references, which resonated with my own Minnesota youth (especially the Red Owl). Kagen has the era down perfectly. Can't wait to read "The Resurrection of..." even though it will be my first paper book in years! There was so much about this that triggered memories of my own childhood... I hope my own ...more
Holly's Little Book Reviews
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great short story, I just wish it was an entire novel! The characters are so unique and well written... I mean what's not to love in a main character who is an 11-year-old girl who is obsessed with TO-DO lists, death, and making sure her 10-year-old sister is taken care of. Equal parts funny and heartfelt... I want more of Tess's story!! :)
Jeanne Collins
I wish this book had been longer -- because I love reading Leslie Kagen's stories so much! If you live in Milwaukee -- especially Wauwatosa -- it's all there in her stories: Vliet Street, Hawley Road, Meurer's Bakery, Washington Park, Samson the gorilla, Joy Farm . . . pick up one of her books and fall into your past!
PacaLipstick Gramma
Nov 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: author
I am a fan of Lesley Kagen's books.

The story was entertaining, and I loved the style, but it was almost a carbon copy of her character True in Whistling in the Dark. Written from the perspective of a ten year old girl, from Milwaukee, in 1959.

I liked the teaser at the end, of the sequel, The Resurrection of Tess, and will be reading that.
Jennifer Miroglotta
This book involves the same characters from The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, but in this book they are children,and we learn everything that led up to the kinds of adults they are in Resurrection. The precocious child narrator Tess is delightful. I love the way she takes responsibility for her younger sister.
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've read 4 of Lesley Kagen's 6 books and every one of them has been lovely, so I guess I need to order the other two. These are good books to share with your sisters, which I do. This is a short Novella and I was familiar with the characters, so a quick read.
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-on-kindle
wow. just wow. Lesley kagen never disappoints. the voice she gives Tess is amazing.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this so much! The Undertaking of Tess is one of the best reads I have had the pleasure of experiencing all year.
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delightful book with rich characters, humour and a good story. Looking forward to the next book to be released 9 December 2014.
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
charming story

This is a charming and Delightful read. Lesley kagan perfectly captures the naïveté and perception of her characters. I loved it.
Nancy Lehman
Sep 24, 2015 marked it as to-read
1959, Milwaukee, bittersweet novella, haunting tale of sisters quest to maneuver through their unpredictable world... sequel follows this book "Resurrection of Tess Blessing"
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great short story. Loved the sisters.
Sharon Heaverly Machuga French
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as part of the First Reads Giveaway program in return for an honest review.

This is the first book that I have read by Lesley Kagen so I was a little unsure of the way in which she writes. However, although the book was a little slow to take off, it was also hard to put down.

The story is about 2 young girls and their lives in Wisconsin in the 1950s. Tess Blessing is the older at age 10 and is the narrator for the story. After witnessing her father's death, Tess begins to wo
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
i love reading these books about the finley sisters and their adventures! bonus: they're set in the same neighborhood in milwaukee where my mom grew up. :) i know a lot of the places they visit or mention because my mom has told me stories about them from her childhood! a lot of the ways in which the ethnic groups interact (polish vs. irish vs. italians) are super accurate for that place and time period (based on those same stories i've heard over the years). also, these books always remind me t ...more
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Lesley Kagen is a mother of two, a grandmother of two, an actress, narrator, speaker, essayist, and the award winning, New York Times bestselling author of ten novels, including her newest, EVERY NOW AND THEN, which will be released on Oct. 6th. She lives in a charming small town in Wisconsin in a hundred-fifty-year-old farm house with her dog, Gracie.

More about Lesley and reading guides can be f

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