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Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay



About the Book:
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 

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 an 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 (which just won not one but two Carol awards this past weekend - congrats, Katherine!), 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 that 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 Katherine Reay: "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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Rissi
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30 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You'll like it, I'm pretty sure, Juju. :)

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  2. I was already excited about this book and this review just made me more excited (if that was even possible! :)

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    1. Yay! I'm glad it stirred excitement, Jamie - meant every word. :)

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  3. Thanks for reviewing this Rissi!!!
    I thought Dear Mr. Knightley was a unique and interesting read,
    so I would give this book a try.

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    1. My pleasure, Ella. I hope you like L&J same as you did DMK. It's different albeit in a very good way. :)

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  4. This review really makes me want to give this book a try! I'd heard of Dear Mr. Knightley, but just never got to it. Anyways, lovely review Rissi!! :)

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    1. DMK is beautiful, Bekah same as L&J albeit the two are very different which suits me just fine. Another bravo to Katherine Reay for writing these. :)

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  5. Fantastic review! I loved Dear Mr. Knightly and while this one's plot didn't appeal to me as much I am still looking forward to reading it! I'm even more excited after reading your thoughts!

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    1. I understand that, Abbi. I don't think I related to the characters as much in terms of being closer in age to them as I did with Samantha (DMK), but I still felt there was relatable material in this - particularly as regards the sister relationship. Hope you enjoy this if/when you read it. :)

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  6. Sounds great...I can't wait to read it! :)

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  7. Another book to add to my never ending to-read list! This one sounds really good. I've heard really good things about Dear Mr. Knightley as well and really need to get my hands on that one too.

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    1. Both of Katherine's are worth the wait and making time for, Sereina, though I totally know the feeling of have a never ending TBR! :)

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  8. Great review! I thought it was interesting that Dear Mr. Knightley was actually based on a different classic which I had read and loved as a teen.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Heidi! Loved both of Katherine's books - hope you enjoy L&J, too. :)

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  9. Love your review, Rissi! This book took a hard, honest look at relationships, didn't it? I agree with you about it being more difficult to relate to the sisters since they are a bit older than us. Sam from DMK was totally accessible since we're going through that 'phase' of life right now (DMK is still my favorite! with L&J a *very* close second :) ). I completely loved the honesty Katherine wrote the sisters' relationship with-- she didn't shy away from the ugliness and conflict that, unfortunately, is a part of life, even when dealing with cancer.

    Woo! Sorry that got a little wordy. I just can't help myself; I could go on and on about this book, as there's so much good stuff in there!

    Cassie

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    1. Thanks for reading, Cassie! Always appreciate your input, girl.

      Despite not being able to relate to the characters as well (we in our age group that is, not everyone, of course :D), I still related to the idea of sisters going through trials and growing apart (realistic), and yes, the honesty in it is beautiful. Bravo to Katherine! I probably liked DMK slightly more as well... though not by much! And her third book? It sounds smashing and fun and cool and... awesome! ;)

      Wordy? I think not, girl. Come back anytime with such comments. :)

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    2. I agree with all of your thoughts, Rissi. And book #3 sounds fantastic! :)

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    3. Doesn't it just!? I cannot wait for book three - it sounds more "lighthearted" than Katherine's prior books which I've no doubt she will also conquer with grace and beauty. :)

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  10. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this book. I already love the story because I'm a Jane Austen fan and now that I know it has Austen themes, I'll definitely want to read it. Great review, btw.

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    1. You will indeed, Luthien! It's oh-so-good - particularly the Austen theme in the end! :)

      Thank you for reading.

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  11. Can't wait to read this one! I loved Dear Mr. Knightley and I've been looking forward to this one ever since!

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    1. It's worth ALL the waiting, Amy. :)

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  12. I enjoyed your review and am looking forward to reading this book.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Deborah - and happy reading. It's lovely. :)

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  13. *sigh* Just makes me want to read it again. :) You mentioned how Reay did such a great job with not letting the aspect of the story dealing with cancer take it over and you are so right. That's a pet peeve I'll be talking a little about on Sunday - when stories that deal with illnesses or are issue-driven end up being the whole story and then feel somewhat forced. Lizzy & Jane definitely deals with aspects of cancer, but that's not what the story is about. It's about these two sisters and Lizzy finding herself. I also love how there are so many Austen references, but yes, it's not a retelling. Great review, Rissi!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Tressa. As usual, I am just so impressed with Katherine and she did not disappoint with her follow up novel. Wondering what she has in store next for us!? :)

      YES! It's so refreshing that this story is not lost in the cancer plot; it's about Lizzy finding herself (as you say) and the two sisters coming back to each other, and their family as a whole. It's about healing, emotionally and finding hope and joy in the small things. So much greatness.

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