Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Review of Lizzy and Jane

Here's a description of the book from Thomas Nelson:

"Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you've run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She's lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvy celebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she's losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?"

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

The story begins with a troubled chef who doesn't think there's room for another chef to enter her kitchen. The new guy excels in the areas where Elizabeth is struggling, and she feels threatened and overwhelmed by his presence - and what that says about her boss's lack of faith in her.

I got a No Reservations vibe from the beginning of the story...but it quickly takes a very different turn when Elizabeth hops a plane to Seattle to visit the family she once fled. What starts out as the set-up for a familiar romance turns into a unique and challenging sister story - although the romance does eventually kick in, just in an unexpected way.

This novel had me torn at multiple levels. There's no denying that Reay has a graceful way with words; there are many touching and thought-provoking scenes in Elizabeth's journey toward reconciliation and revival. But there is an overlying tone of melancholy throughout much of the book that made it more difficult for me to fully get into. The misunderstandings...the unkind words...the painful situations...the familial discord... It's hard. And since the story is written solely in Elizabeth's point of view, the reader is also limited in connecting with the characters in that regard.

There's a lot going on in the book emotionally, but it is a slower read - or at least, I found it to be such. Yet, I still felt invested in the story. Elizabeth and Jane are the characters who set the plot in motion, but the story is about more than their relationship. It's about their family as a whole, about Jane's husband and children, about the people they meet at the hospital (nurses and patients alike), about Elizabeth's dreams, and about a certain friend and love interest whose tenderness and uncertainty and devotion charmed my heart.

I was intrigued by the cooking aspects of the book, and all the sensory details that go along with that. I was ultimately touched by the authentic struggles, as well as the persistent hope that refused to completely give up on the characters. And I enjoyed the various expressions of love that often came about in surprising ways.

Lizzy and Jane is the kind of story that makes you want to call up your family and tell them you love them. It's not an easy read, but it's alternately sweet and thought-provoking, and it gets to the heart of family issues. A rich and subtly romantic women's fiction read.

*With thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note: Lizzy and Jane releases October 28, 2014.

4 comments:

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Yup. I neeeed this book. :)

Amber Stokes said...

Juju,

Glad my review could help confirm it! :) I'm sure you'll love the story!

~Amber

Rissi said...

LOVED this story - and thanks for your fabulous (as always) review, Amber. You know how to write 'em, girl. :)

Amber Stokes said...

Rissi,

It really had a lot of heart and charm and poignancy, didn't it? Katherine knows how to tell a great story!

And aww, thank you for reading my review, and for that super sweet compliment! :D

~Amber