As if reading a book about grief and death wasn’t enough, I unknowingly placed a book right behind it from my Reay reading binge that focuses on two sisters, one of whom is battling cancer, and one of whom is battling issues from their mother’s death from cancer.
After reading the first two novels by Reay (The Austen Escape and Dear Mr. Knightley) I wasn’t really sure where this one would fall. Would it be super religious/preachy or wouldn’t it? Would it be squeaky clean or would Reay let a little more spice into the work?
Reay was less preachy in this novel, which was surprising considering the subject matter and with a sibling dying and a mother’s death affecting their relationship, but it was just as clean (which, again, was refreshing). This goes to further my thoughts that Reay may have moved further from the religious undertones the more successful her books got. Looking at Dear Mr. Knightley, her debut novel, and comparing it to The Austen Escape, her most recent novel there’s a world of difference in the religious undertones.
I’m still struggling to put my finger on it, but I think Reay has issues developing characters. Her main characters in general have a bit of spunk to them, but the minor characters (few as they are) never really come out of the background. You can argue and say that’s to make the protagonists that much more important, but when the minor characters are so flat that it dulls the brightness and potential of the protagonists it’s a problem. Ultimately, this lack of development causes other issues with pacing and timing within the works.
I felt Reay tried to do too much in this book and it suffered. The bi-coastal sisters, the parental drama, the two potential lovers, the multi-tiered family stretched to breaking, the (attempt at) backstories for some of the minor characters, it all served as distraction from the main story line. I feel if Reay would’ve put a little more focus on the sisters and their relationships and not the tangential connections it would’ve been a much stronger work and would’ve been that much more enjoyable.
Recommendation: Overall, this was an enjoyable quick read. The story is engaging enough when you’re reading it, but almost immediately forgettable when you’re done. Reay over extended herself with this one, but it was early in her writing career, so I know she has grown. I’ll finish out Reay’s books (I already have The Brontë Plot and am pretty sure I have A Portrait of Emily Price on hold at the library), but unless I come across her future books on another blog that really sings their praises (religious reference, get it?!) I’m not sure if I’ll seek her out.
Opening Line: “One misstep can kill a New York restaurant.”
Closing Line: “Today we are found.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Lizzy & Jane
“Wow. I never thought about food like that, but it makes sense. You aren’t a different person when you read versus when you eat or do anything else—everything in us does intersect, I guess…” (Loc. 6917, omnibus edition)
“I tapped Emma, resting on Jane’s lap. ‘You see it in Austen. She only mentions food as a means to bring characters together, reveal aspects of their nature and their moral fiber. Hemingway does the same, though he skews more towards the drinks. Nevertheless it’s never about the food—it’s about what the food becomes, in the hands of the giver and the recipient.” (Loc. 7530, omnibus edition)
“Isn’t that odd? Tons of men in New York, years of unsuccessful, tepid relationships, and some single dad who wears flip-flops in Seattle sets my pulse soaring. I can’t explain it.” (Loc. 7963, omnibus edition)
“I don’t think we get exempt from the pain because we live good lives. Some circumstances we can’t control—in fact, most are truly beyond our abilities. Instead maybe it’s how we get made new; it’s one of the only times we slow down enough to listen and receive grace, real grace.” (Loc. 9400, omnibus edition)