Mix one part Jane Austen romance, one part chef story, and one part family drama and you’ll come out with Katherine Reay‘s Lizzy & Jane (Thomas Nelson 2014). You might want to get this one after eating your fill of Halloween candy or your Thanksgiving Feast – you’ll want to be full since good food and sharing it are a major theme.
The book starts with a burnt out chef Elizabeth (Lizzy) struggling to regain her footing and inspiration in the kitchen of her restaurant Feast. Add in her sister Jane, a whiz at marketing, undergoing chemotherapy. Jane and Lizzie’s mother died of cancer years earlier and both daughters have fled their father and each other. Lizzie flies out to the West Coast to finally face her sister and winds up doing what she does best: cook. And through cooking and sharing food, she falls in love, helps her sister and her family, and reconnects with what makes her a good chef.
Here Lizzie discovers that her new West Coast friend has interests that coincide with hers:
The mint picked up and we turned back to his surprisingly well-equipped kitchen ¬–a Vitamix, Santoku knives, a La Pavoni espresso maker, a marble mortar and pestle…I walk over to it and lift the wooden pestle. Good weight. The wood was ground smooth, well used. (p. 164)
Turns out that what makes a mortar and pestle good is what makes people good. There are no recipes, but you won’t miss them. Instead, readers will revel in the descriptions of the market scenes in Seattle, the restaurants, and the food Lizzie makes.
Throughout the book, Lizzie reads Austen novels to Jane – always focusing on what the characters eat. The same kind of self-discovery that makes Austen novels so good – is here – and Austen fans will gobble it up. There is a bit of spirituality, a bit of luck, and a bunch of perfect kids who pull at your heartstrings. But this is the season of heartstrings, so enjoy.