“Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you’ve run out of ways to escape.”
Lizzy – a thirty-three-year-old gifted New York City chef who seems to have temporarily lost her magic in the kitchen. Her restaurant isn’t packed, her dishes aren’t as focused and vibrant, and her financial backer thinks she is distracted by events in her personal life.
Jane – Lizzy’s older sister. A mother of two, who, at the age of forty-one, is battling the very terrifying and unpredictable disease known as cancer. While Jane’s cancer isn’t aggressive and was diagnosed at an early stage it has created a vast amount of tension and upheaval to every aspect of her life.
Lizzy and Jane – sisters who lost their mother to cancer fifteen years ago and still have emotional scars that have not yet healed. Jane left home at eighteen and never came to visit while their mom was sick. Lizzy, feeling abandoned by her sister, left home as well and the two now have a very distant and cold relationship full of unresolved issues and pain. But due to the situations in both their lives they are brought together for an extended visit…
With Dear Mr. Knightley, we’ve seen how skilled story-teller, Katherine Reay, can take a very serious and difficult situation like growing up in the foster system, and pen a heartfelt and honest story full of challenge, growth, and realism. She does the same with Lizzy and Jane. Cancer and overcoming fear and grief are very tough and sometimes off-putting subjects, but blended with Ms. Reay’s thoughtful and sensitive prose and accessible characters, these subjects are more inspiring and uplifting than they are depressing and dark.
As with Dear Mr. Knightley, my favorite part of the story was witnessing the main character’s emotional journey and growth. Their mother’s death affected Lizzy and Jane in so many ways; they lost a lot more than their mother when she died. I especially enjoyed Lizzy’s journey to find herself and discover what she was missing. When Lizzy traveled to Seattle to visit her family, she was hoping to solve her problems with cooking and find her magic again, but she ended up learning so much more, she ended up finding love, family, forgiveness, and a life.
It was so easy to fall in love with the characters in this story – my heart was engaged by each and every one of them and I thoroughly enjoyed observing how they grew closer together. Besides her relationship with Jane, I enjoyed seeing Lizzy’s interactions and friendships with Nick, a single father who feels guilty about a past mistake, and Cecilia, a nurse at the infusion center with so much heart and spirit. I enjoyed how so many characters connected to each other through Jane Austen and other authors; and I loved how Jane Austen was so full of meaning and history to both Lizzy and Jane (there are plenty of fun nods to Jane Austen for readers to discover!) And the food references and descriptions were so delectably tempting! Whether it was food Lizzy was preparing, eating at a restaurant, or purchasing at a market – my senses were tingling with all the fresh, vivid, and tantalizing ingredients described. (I think I may have learned a cooking trick or two, as well!) And while I loved how this tale integrated so many diverse elements, I did sometimes find myself wanting a little more attention and page time devoted to certain aspects of the story.
Profound, perceptive, and poignant – Katherine Reay once again delivers a story that will pull at your heartstrings, make your eyes well up with tears, and in this case, give you plenty of food for thought! An incredible read!
- RRP: £9.99
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 28, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401689736
- ISBN-13: 978-1401689735
Meredith Esparza is music studio director and private piano instructor living off the coast of North Carolina with her very own Mr. Bingley. She is a long-time admirer of Jane Austen and an avid reader. For more than five years her blog, Austenesque Reviews has been devoted to the reading and reviewing of numerous Jane Austen sequels, fan-fiction, and para-literature. She loves being able to connect with readers and authors online through a shared love and admiration for Jane Austen. Visit Meredith at her blog Austenesque Reviews, follow her on Twitter as @austenesque and on Facebook as Austenesque Reviews.