For Jane Re, half-Korean, half-American orphan, Flushing, Queens, is the place she’s been trying to escape from her whole life. Sardonic yet vulnerable, Jane toils, unappreciated, in her strict uncle’s grocery store and politely observes the traditional principle of nunchi (a combination of good manners, hierarchy, and obligation). Desperate for a new life, she’s thrilled to become the au pair for the Mazer-Farleys, two Brooklyn English professors and their adopted Chinese daughter. Inducted into the world of organic food co-ops, and nineteenth–century novels, Jane is the recipient of Beth Mazer’s feminist lectures and Ed Farley’s very male attention. But when a family death interrupts Jane and Ed’s blossoming affair, she flies off to Seoul, leaving New York far behind.
Reconnecting with family, and struggling to learn the ways of modern-day Korea, Jane begins to wonder if Ed Farley is really the man for her. Jane returns to Queens, where she must find a balance between two cultures and accept who she really is.
Yeaaaaah, I was supposed to post a review about this AMAZING book (more than) a few months ago but lets move on, shall we? *clears throat*
The thing is, I enjoyed this re-telling of Jane Eyre so much that I was waiting for my intellect to catch up. RE JANE was incredibly clever, insightful, poignant, and funny. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with the words to review such a smart book. I bow down to the author’s character-constructing prowess and now forge ahead with my inadequate assessment.
I loved this book in the same way that I LOVE the Bridget Jones’s Diary films. It has all the same quirky and entertaining elements paired with more thoughtful and contemplative underlying themes that address topics such as adultery, relationships, boundaries, intersectionality, personal growth, and unconditional love.
Patricia Park’s depiction of Jane’s struggle against the ties that bind her to family, cultural custom, and Korean traditions- and her outgrowth of some of these suffocating expectations- made for a completely engaging read. I loved this MC. She perfectly captured the conflicting duality in all of us (especially women) as we enter into the confusing adulthood of our twenties. Jane was at once vulnerable, scared, and shy, and curious, courageous, and strong. It was rewarding to see/read Jane’s heart/head struggles. And of course, all the accompanying characters that depict Jane’s family, employers, and friends were constructed just as meticulously and entertainingly.
The writing and construction of Jane’s thoughts and experiences was just so on point in this novel. Truly a literature and contemporary fiction lover’s dream. A lovely balance between heavier themes and the kind of fluffy subject matter that can typify the twenty-something female experience was achieved in Re Jane.
[…] The rest of the family was just upstairs, yet in that moment they seemed so far away.
Ed inched closer, running his fingers over my cheek and tucking strands of hair behind my ears. I grew self-conscious […] And suddenly Ed was pulling away. “Good night, Jane.” His tone had gone chilly. He bit his lip. Abruptly he left me […] Rejection was a numbing quality. I sat like that on the wicker love seat for a minute, an hour, I couldn’t tell you how long.
And then it was dawn. […]
A little later that morning, I awoke from a rum-and -Coke induced haze- in my own bed- to the sound of the upstairs telephone ringing. I tripped from the tangle of sheets and out the door. When I picked up, a familiar voice blasted through the receiver.
“You come home right now. Grandpa coming from Korea. Not look good, you living outside house.”
I tried to hide the sleepy mumble from my voice. “I have a job, Uncle. With responsibilities.”
“What exactly you do all day?”
To reiterate, I really, really, really enjoyed this book and think it deserves a spot among the beloved books on your shelf. It’s a contemporary classic that begs to be read more than once.
Have you read RE JANE? Please share your thoughts in the comment section. I’d love to know if you enjoyed the book as much as I did.
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