Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay (Review)

Lizzy & Jane
by Katherine Reay
Christian Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
Available October 2014
Thomas Nelson
352 pages



About the Book
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?

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My Thoughts
Oh my! I'm not sure that I have adequate words to express how much I absolutely loved this book, but I'll give it a shot.

At first glance, this is a simple romance novel featuring a chef who is struggling to rediscover her creativity in the kitchen and leaves town to help her sister as she battles cancer. Of course, she meets a cute guy, flirts a little, and starts to have more than friendship feelings.

But Lizzy & Jane is about so much more than just romance or even self-discovery. It's about love and family and cancer and grief and loss and survival. It's about the intimate relationships between family members and how much it hurts to lose your mother and how even adults still need their moms and how important it is to stay close even when life pulls you apart. It's about sisters and caring for each other and sacrificing your dreams, wants, desires for another. It's about creativity and scenery and the mundane and the romantic moments in the midst of it all. It's about finding God in the middle of pain and tragedy and discovering hard truths about yourself along the way. It's about food and books. It's about more than just food and books though. It's about how those things tell others a lot about who we are and how they bring us together and help us build community with others. It's about serving and loving and giving. It's about the feast and how it can literally change our lives.

The book was absolutely beautiful. The story itself was moving, and the writing was magnificent. I found myself staying up way too late to keep reading "just one more page." But getting only 5 hours of sleep was totally worth it. Totally. 

The relationships between every person in the book were just stunning. Jane and Peter. Jane and Lizzy. Lizzy and Nick. Lizzy and the kids. Lizzy and her father. Lizzy and Jane and their mother. All the patients in the cancer center. And Cecelia. Just dynamite! And the result of all of these relationships is a rich, deep, story that felt complete. 

I loved the talk between Lizzy and just about everyone about what books they liked, what foods they enjoyed, what smells, sights, and touches they loved most. It made me think about my own favorites and how all of those things work together to paint a picture of me.

Some might think that there isn't a very strong faith message. And while it's true that there aren't a lot of direct conversations about the gospel, it's written all throughout the book—almost allegorical.

There are tons of references to Jane Austen, Hemingway, and other amazing works of literature. Sadly, I've read almost none of them (and have never really cared to), but reading Lizzy & Jane made me want to! (My TBR list has grown by leaps and bounds over the 355 pages of this book!)

It's only day 6 of 2015, and I can already tell you with certainty that Lizzy and Jane will be on my "favorites" list this year. Seriously. Go find a copy of this book and read it! [5 stars]

[One side note for the squeamish ... around page 175 there is a terrible accident involving a very sharp knife and Lizzy's fingers. The description is a little graphic, and I nearly got ill. But I'll just chalk it up to great writing (and a weak stomach!). If you ARE squeamish, just skip ahead a couple of pages, and you'll be fine. :)]

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked as a marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Sears before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her works have been published in Focus on the Family and the Upper Room. Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle. Dear Mr. Knightley is her first novel.

Katherine Reay Online
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