Among the inspirational, Christian fiction crowd, I’m not sure there are books more anticipated than the follow up to 2013’s debut author Katherine Reay’s lovely epistolary novel, Dear Mr. Knightley. While the two share no connection story wise besides being seeped in Austen-esque loveliness, readers couldn’t wait to see what Reay had next for us. Myself included.

‘LIZZY AND JANE,’ KATHERINE REAY. Review of the 2014 novel about sisters and the emotional connection between them. Text © Rissi JC

STORY: Lizzy & Jane tells the story of the titular sisters who are at odds with one another ever since their mother died years earlier from cancer – Lizzy was there for her mother. Jane was not. Now, both girls are grown up, living their own lives and Lizzy’s nearly ten years elder sister, Jane is going through the terror of cancer. Burned out from her work as a chef at an elite, New York restaurant, Lizzy agrees to take a trip west to visit her father and Jane. Afraid for her own future, tired of fighting with Jane and still healing from a past and loss she never mourned, Lizzy is about to rediscover her passions… and all that really matters.

Lizzy and Jane, by Katherine Reay | Book Review

This market found a treasure when that agent and publisher read Katherine Reay’s manuscript. She is a gifted, marvelous storyteller, who never takes anything in her story for granted – either for her characters or for us, the reader. Lizzy & Jane is a very different kind of story for those of us still on a book high from Dear Mr. Knightley (which just won not one but two Carol awards this past weekend – congrats, Katherine!), but that in no way is a criticism for this beauty.

In part, this book is about a woman fighting for her life and suffering the emotional impact of the ravages of cancer, but this isn’t a book about cancer. Katherine has done a beautiful job making this about the characters; the sister’s relationships as opposed to letting the story hide in the tragedies of overcoming something so difficult to write about.

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‘LIZZY AND JANE,’ KATHERINE REAY #bookarchives Click To Tweet

Since I read an early NetGalley ARC galley, I have to confess that my reading experience wasn’t as pleasant as I’d have liked (the format was messy). That being said, nothing was going to deter me from discovering the hidden joys of this one, and thankfully, those distractions didn’t. While I don’t think I can say I relate nearly as well to Lizzy & Jane, I doubt there are many of us who won’t be able to feel for or understand what these sister’s go through. Whether it be because of the disease that brings them back into the same space or because of their foolish differences they let build a wall between them – who of us hasn’t been in one of these situations? Sadly we all have – I know I have, and probably experienced both extremes. 

Another thing Austen purists will appreciate, these are not retellings of Austen’s works. Instead of reshaping the classics to fit a contemporary mold, Reay weaves in references in honorable nods to the great literature and uses all of the good in those stories to an advantage in the breathtaking novels she pens. One of the references in particular leaves me all swoon-y and happy inside; particularly since it’s such a popular Austen moment. The author uses it to a charming advantage in the final moments of Lizzy & Jane.

This is one of those books I’m loathe to see end. In fact, while reading it, I had a reaction of dismay that I had reached the end. In trying to get to the end, I had sped through the book faster than normal. These two lovely women whose relationship is as realistic as any of our relationships teach us so much about laughter, love and forgiveness.  

About the Book:

Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: NetGally and author provided ARC
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere: Goodreads | Novel Crossing
Add the Book: Goodreads
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary, Inspirational
Rating: 5 out of 5  

Sincere thanks to the publisher and NetGalley as well as Katherine Reay (thank *you*) for providing a complimentary ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Thanks for reviewing this Rissi!!!
    I thought Dear Mr. Knightley was a unique and interesting read,
    so I would give this book a try.

  2. This review really makes me want to give this book a try! I'd heard of Dear Mr. Knightley, but just never got to it. Anyways, lovely review Rissi!! :)

    1. DMK is beautiful, Bekah same as L&J albeit the two are very different which suits me just fine. Another bravo to Katherine Reay for writing these. :)

  3. Fantastic review! I loved Dear Mr. Knightly and while this one's plot didn't appeal to me as much I am still looking forward to reading it! I'm even more excited after reading your thoughts!

    1. I understand that, Abbi. I don't think I related to the characters as much in terms of being closer in age to them as I did with Samantha (DMK), but I still felt there was relatable material in this – particularly as regards the sister relationship. Hope you enjoy this if/when you read it. :)

  4. Another book to add to my never ending to-read list! This one sounds really good. I've heard really good things about Dear Mr. Knightley as well and really need to get my hands on that one too.

    1. Both of Katherine's are worth the wait and making time for, Sereina, though I totally know the feeling of have a never ending TBR! :)

  5. Love your review, Rissi! This book took a hard, honest look at relationships, didn't it? I agree with you about it being more difficult to relate to the sisters since they are a bit older than us. Sam from DMK was totally accessible since we're going through that 'phase' of life right now (DMK is still my favorite! with L&J a *very* close second :) ). I completely loved the honesty Katherine wrote the sisters' relationship with– she didn't shy away from the ugliness and conflict that, unfortunately, is a part of life, even when dealing with cancer.

    Woo! Sorry that got a little wordy. I just can't help myself; I could go on and on about this book, as there's so much good stuff in there!


    1. Thanks for reading, Cassie! Always appreciate your input, girl.

      Despite not being able to relate to the characters as well (we in our age group that is, not everyone, of course :D), I still related to the idea of sisters going through trials and growing apart (realistic), and yes, the honesty in it is beautiful. Bravo to Katherine! I probably liked DMK slightly more as well… though not by much! And her third book? It sounds smashing and fun and cool and… awesome! ;)

      Wordy? I think not, girl. Come back anytime with such comments. :)

    2. Doesn't it just!? I cannot wait for book three – it sounds more "lighthearted" than Katherine's prior books which I've no doubt she will also conquer with grace and beauty. :)

  6. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this book. I already love the story because I'm a Jane Austen fan and now that I know it has Austen themes, I'll definitely want to read it. Great review, btw.

  7. *sigh* Just makes me want to read it again. :) You mentioned how Reay did such a great job with not letting the aspect of the story dealing with cancer take it over and you are so right. That's a pet peeve I'll be talking a little about on Sunday – when stories that deal with illnesses or are issue-driven end up being the whole story and then feel somewhat forced. Lizzy & Jane definitely deals with aspects of cancer, but that's not what the story is about. It's about these two sisters and Lizzy finding herself. I also love how there are so many Austen references, but yes, it's not a retelling. Great review, Rissi!

    1. Thanks for reading, Tressa. As usual, I am just so impressed with Katherine and she did not disappoint with her follow up novel. Wondering what she has in store next for us!? :)

      YES! It's so refreshing that this story is not lost in the cancer plot; it's about Lizzy finding herself (as you say) and the two sisters coming back to each other, and their family as a whole. It's about healing, emotionally and finding hope and joy in the small things. So much greatness.

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