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Lizzy and Jane Kindle Edition
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|Length: 344 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Edited - I have found myself reflecting on this book quite a bit, particularly in terms of my own relationships. Any book that does that is worthy of acknowledging. I upped from three to four stars.
Lizzy is a chef and runs an expensive restaurant in New York City. But she's been thrown off her groove lately because her sister Jane has cancer. Their mom died of cancer, so she's pretty freaked about this. She takes a sort of stress break from work and flies to Seattle to see her dad and sister, with whom she doesn't have exactly a close and warm and loving relationship. And then she meets a guy, and she cooks a lot of food, and she works through her relationship problems with her sister and figures out stuff about her past and gets to know her niece and nephew and brother-in-law better, and that all sounds kind of boring and/or depressing, but it's not. It's beautiful.
I also cried a lot over it, but in a good way, if that makes any sense. Not happy crying, but more "what if it was me facing the potential of leaving her kids for good."
In case you can't tell by now, this is NOT a retelling of "Pride and Prejudice." Jane Austen's books do figure into the story, but if you haven't read them, you'll still enjoy this book. If you have read them, you'll get what the characters are talking about when they discuss the books, but it's not a prerequisite.
Our point of view character, Elizabeth, is a chef in New York whose whole life revolves around her restaurant. When her cooking begins to lose its touch and the restaurant owner brings in another chef to help spice things up, Lizzy feels threatened and in need of a break. She heads back to her home state of Washington and ends up staying with her sister Jane, who is battling cancer and in the middle of chemotherapy. Jane's cancer is a constant reminder of all that stands between the sisters, because their mother went through the same journey fifteen years earlier. Lizzy felt like Jane walked out on their family during that hard time, but she herself has kept her distance since then. After so many years of hurt and heartache, it seems impossible to bridge the gap that has grown between them.
When Jane's husband Peter has to leave for business trip, Lizzy makes arrangements to lengthen her stay and help out. Jane is not able to eat much because her treatments have completely changed her taste buds, and Lizzy takes this as a personal challenge to find new flavors to appeal to Jane's palate and enable her to keep food down. Drawing inspiration from Jane's favorite literature, Lizzy's chef instincts take over as she creates many new dishes.
While helping Jane, Lizzy is developing relationships with her niece and nephew, the nurses and other patients in the cancer ward, and Jane's handsome neighbor Nick. Her own world and dreams are so insular that Lizzy doesn't know how to relate to these people, many of whom are in very vulnerable places in their lives. As Lizzy tries to recover her cooking touch and confirm her plans to return to New York, she finds she may be leaving a very large part of her heart in Seattle.
It took me a long time to really get into this story. Part of that was knowing the seriousness of the subject matter, and part of it was that it's not easy to make an emotional connection with Lizzy as a character. I also had a hard time with the verbal darts that both the sisters, and especially Lizzy, would throw towards each other or anyone else in their way. As someone who loves words and finds them affirming, to watch them used over and over as hurtful weapons made me sad, and thankful that my family tends towards the opposite end of the communication spectrum. While "Dear Mr. Knightley" held lots of literary references which were easy to relate to, that wasn't true with "Lizzy & Jane." I know many people who are talented cooks for their homes and communities, including many who are classic literature fans, but I can't see myself or any one of them creating whole menus based off references in the works of Austen, Dickens, or Hemingway. As that would be so far beyond our skill set, it actually pushed me out as a reader instead of drawing me in.
I will say that the book became more engaging the farther I got into it, and there's no doubt that Reay is a talented author. While I can't quite share the sentiment of those who placed "Lizzy & Jane" on their list of favorite books from 2014 because the book just had so many dark and serious overtones, I did enjoy it and look forward to Reay's next release. I'm glad she's finding her place in the publishing world and making classic lit shine in new ways.
Most recent customer reviews
I won this book in a giveaway and enjoyed reading it. Lizzy and Jane were two sisters whose mom died of cancer, causing misunderstandings and hurt that...Read more