Um, yes. Two reviews of Katherine Reay books in just over a week. Because I got this from the library last Saturday and began devouring it immediately. And I do mean "devouring" -- this book's protag, Elizabeth/Lizzy, is a chef. And while I like learning about interior decorating now and then, which featured prominently in The Bronte Plot, I love to cook and adore baking, so that's one reason I liked this book even better than that one.
Now, I don't consider myself a "foodie" because I'm not into gourmet food, I don't grind my own herbs and spices (unless I've grown them myself), and I don't make up my own recipes very often. But I do have a recipe blog, and I truly enjoy preparing and eating food. Reading this book made me hungry.
So anyway, about this book. 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 liked The Bronte Plot, but I loved Lizzy & Jane.
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." I'm going to be flying most of the way across the country without my kids this summer, leaving them for almost a week for the first time ever (well, we left 2 of them at Grandpa and Grammy's overnight once...) and I'm kind of wigging out over the idea that what if I died on that trip and they had to live the rest of their lives without me? Something I'm doing a lot of praying about already, even though my trip is six months away. So somehow, reading this book helped me kind of figure out exactly what was concerning me the most about that impending trip and know better how to pray about it.
Anyway, good book. Also, 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.
One thing did bug me about this, though. It's supposedly a work of Christian fiction, and it does contain more discussions of God and living a godly life than The Bronte Plot did. A Bible verse reference here and there. But they were all about how God makes our lives better or helps us endure things. Nothing about Jesus. No law, no Gospel. Nobody in this book ever goes to church. Nobody says, "Hey, you know, because we're forgiven by God for our sins, we need to go forgive other people too. Maybe you should think about that." It's nominal Christianity only, vague and more Deistic than anything, and that bugged me.
I'm not a fan of Christian fiction that has sermons sandwiched into every third chapter, an obligatory conversion story line, and a required quotient of Jesus references. But if characters are supposed to be Christians, I expect them to act more like God truly matters in their lives. "By your fruits, you will know them" (Matthew 7:16), in other words. However, if you don't think of this as "Christian fiction" and instead "fiction that Christians would be comfortable reading," then it works well.
Particularly Good Bits:
Without ever losing sight or diminishing Anne's reality and social limitations, Austen gave her and all of us the soft, steady hope of second chances, happiness, true love, and the promise that life might be better close to thirty than it was at eighteen (p. 241).
If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for a brief discussion between sisters about how cancer affects your hormones and sex life. It's not salacious, it's matter-of-fact and minor, but it's there.