book, Book Review

Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

About the Book:Book - Lizzy and Jane
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: NetGally and author provided ARC
Publication Date: 2014
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Genre: Fiction; Contemporary, Inspirational Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: Among the inspirational, Christian fiction crowd, I’m not sure there were many books more anticipated than the follow up to 2013’s debut author Katherine Reay’s lovely epistolary novel, Dear Mr. Knightley. While the two share no connection story wise besides being seeped in Austen-esque loveliness, readers couldn’t wait to see what Reay had next for us. Myself included. Lizzy & Jane tells the story of the titular sisters who are at odds with one another ever since their mother died years earlier from cancer – Lizzy was there for her mother. Jane was not. Now, both girls are grown up, living their own lives and Lizzy’s nearly ten years elder sister, Jane is going through the terror of cancer. Burned out from her work as a chef at the elite, New York restaurant – Feast, Lizzy agrees to take a trip west to visit her father… and Jane. Afraid for her own future, tired of fighting with Jane and still healing from a past and loss she never mourned, Lizzy is about to rediscover her passions… and all that really matters.

This market found a treasure when that agent and publisher read Katherine Reay’s manuscript. She is a gifted, marvelous storyteller, who never takes anything in her story for granted – either for her characters or for us, the reader. Lizzy & Jane is a very different kind of story for those of us still on a book high from Dear Mr. Knightley, but that in no way is a criticism for this beauty. I’m not sure if this will sound horribly cliché or not, however I have to say it, because in my pondering over this novel post the final swipe that led to the last page, I realized, while this book is about women fighting for their life and suffering the emotional impact of the ravages of cancer, this isn’t a book about cancer. Katherine has done a beautiful job making this about the characters… the sister’s relationships as opposed to letting the story hide in the tragedies of overcoming something so difficult to write about.

Since I read an early NetGalley ARC galley, I will have to confess that my reading experience for this novel wasn’t as pleasant as I’d have liked it to be because the format wasn’t how it should have been. That being said, nothing was going to deter me from discovering the hidden joys of this one, and thankfully, those distractions didn’t. While I don’t think I can say I related nearly as well to Lizzy & Jane (in terms of the characters being in the same stage of life as I am – or being closer in age), I doubt there are many of us who won’t be able to feel or understand what these sister’s go through. Whether it be because of the disease that brings them back into the same space or because of their foolish differences they let build a wall between them – who of us hasn’t been in one of these situations? Sadly we all have – I know I have, and probably experienced both extremes.

Another thing Austen purists will appreciate, these are not retellings of Austen’s works. Instead of reshaping the classics to fit a contemporary mold, Reay weaves in references in honorable nods to the great literature and uses all of the good in those stories to an advantage in the breathtaking novels she pens. One of the ending references in particular left me all swoon-y and happy inside – particularly since it is such a popular Austen moment that is used to a charming advantage in the final moments of Lizzy & Jane. This is one of those books I was loathe to see end. In fact, while reading it, I swiped my screen and had a reaction of dismay that I had reached the end. In trying to get to the end, I had sped through the book faster than normal and was forced to say good-bye to two lovely women whose relationship is as realistic as any of our sister relationships are and it’s all brought together with much laughter, love and forgiveness.

Synopsis: Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all. Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again. In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past. As she tends to Jane’s needs, Elizabeth’s powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create? – Goodreads

Coming Next from:  “A safe cracker, a cyber thief, a journey to London and a really big diamond.” – teaser from the author 

Sincere thanks to the publisher and NetGalley as well as Katherine Reay (thank *you*) for providing a complimentary ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

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