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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Title: Lizzy & Jane
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson (October 28 2014)
ISBN: 9781401689735
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Genre: contemporary fiction, chick lit, food and drink
My Rating: 2 crowns 


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?

My Thoughts:

“She was my Mom’s favorite, absolute favorite, to the point of naming her daughters after Austen’s most famous sisters.”

From the very title itself, this tale began with a Jane Austen reference I couldn't pass up. Lizzy and Jane is a story about two sisters who had a falling out when their mother died from cancer. When Lizzy, a New York restaurateur, takes a break to visit her sister Jane, who is undergoing chemotherapy, she thinks she’s there to escape her own stresses and recapture the ‘zing’ that is missing from her cooking, whilst building a bridge with her sister. Instead, she discovers what’s really missing from her life.

“I want to love what I’m doing. I want to not feel heavy all the time. I want to laugh like I used to – to be that kid in the picture…. I want to be whole. I want to be thankful.”

Cancer is a real struggle for all those involved. In today’s day and age, there would be few who have not been touched by it in some way – either personally or through a family member or a friend - which makes this book resonant and poignant on that level.

“I understand. I’ve been on both sides – afraid of where I am and where I’m going to finally feeling comfortable with the journey.”

This book is full of culinary descriptions and literary food references. I had never really considered how food is used in literature that much, but this idea is explored throughout the novel, as Lizzy takes inspiration from several classics for her new creations in the kitchen. In many respects, this story reads like a literary ‘Feast’ (name of the restaurant) for the senses. If you like food and the thought behind its inception, this will prove an intriguing component of the read. 

“It’s never about the food – it’s about what the food becomes, in the hand of the giver and the recipient.”

However, I struggled with the melancholy that permeated this read. The struggles, the misunderstandings – fights with harsh words, painful medical situations, recurrent family discord, insincere communications – not easy reading at times. The story is written solely from Lizzy’s perspective, which significantly limits your appreciation and connection with other characters on a deeper level.

Overall the author attempts to provide a reflection of real life and a message of forgiveness and second chances, reconciliation and realization of what is truly important in life.

“It was about love and our definition of it, our striving for it. And it was about how that love gets accepted, returned, or rejected.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher (thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing us with an e-ARC) and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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