Being a huge Katherine Reay fan ever since she wrote my favorite book, Dear Mr. Knightley, I was anxious to get my hands on her newest work as early as possible so I was very happy to receive a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley before its publication date! I was even more excited to find that it was set in the same town as her last book, The Printed Letter Bookshop, which I loved. I always love to revisit beloved characters in new books. I was a little puzzled when I saw on the promotional material that even though it was set in the same town, it could be read as a stand-alone, and now that I’ve read it, I can say that I strongly disagree with that statement! Please read The Printed Letter Bookshop first! This book is a breathtakingly beautiful continuation of the transformation that began in Janet, one of the characters in The Printed Letter Bookshop, and I would hate to think that anyone missed out on experiencing her full transformation by skipping the first one!
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About the Book
Title: Of Literature and Lattes
Author: Katherine Reay
Series: Winsome, Book 2 (I don’t actually know what the series is called, but I wanted to be clear that I consider this a book 2.)
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Print Length: 336 pages
Summary from the publisher: Katherine Reay returns to the cozy and delightful town of Winsome where two people discover the grace of letting go and the joy found in unexpected change.
After fleeing her hometown three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never planned to return. Then the Silicon Valley start-up she worked for collapsed and turned her world upside down. She is broke, under FBI investigation, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she comes home to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup then move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as friends and family welcome her back, Alyssa begins to see a place for herself in this small Midwestern community.
Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. After asking for her help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complex lives, and the future they both hoped for is not at all what they anticipated.
With the help of Winsome’s small-town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.
While I enjoyed getting to know Jeremy and the new characters involved in his story, it was the relationship between Alyssa and Janet that touched my soul throughout this book. Their mother-daughter relationship journey is so raw, so poignant, and moved me to tears several times. It brought out over and over again how our perceptions, expectations, and patterns of interacting influence various relationships in our lives. I hope that I will be able to apply some of the things I learned while reading this book and strengthen some of my own relationships.
I will add that, though Jeremy’s story didn’t really capture me for much of this book, he did a few things towards the end that were so shocking in their generosity and humility that they made me feel his story of transformation was as beautiful in its own way as Janet’s.
I also want to mention that I found the POV odd and, at times, a little jarring in this book. It’s very fluid and slides from one person to another mid-scene but then stays with the new person until it slides to another character altogether. It’s kind of like a TV show. I lost count of how many different people’s POVs there were. There are definitely more than one in each chapter, and they weren’t set apart in any way. (I was reading an ARC from NetGalley so it is possible that these POV switches are made more clear in the actual book. When I get my own copy, which I will be purchasing, I will try and come back and update this review if the final layout somehow makes it less jarring for me.) It didn’t read like an omniscient narrator nor did it feel like an inexperienced writer flopping back and forth. This felt very intentional, but I can’t say I particularly liked it. I daresay some people will love it though, and perhaps, I can get used to it with time. It was just something I haven’t experienced before, and I personally felt like it took away just a little from my enjoyment of the book because my flow kept getting interrupted as I had to stop and think about whose head I was in now.
My only other complaint is that I wish the author had been a little more explicit about the spiritual nature of the transformations experienced by her characters. I know some people like it to be really subtle so this is totally a personal preference, but I prefer it when it’s very clear that the source of real heart transformation is a relationship with Jesus. This can definitely be inferred from this book if one already knows the Lord, but I just wished it was less subtle and more clearly shown. Its subtlety does make it a good candidate for those who wouldn’t ordinarily read Christian fiction or are put off by perceived preachiness as it is definitely not that.
Despite these few complaints, this book really is breathtakingly beautiful, and I know that I am better for having read it. I will certainly be purchasing my own copy and it will undoubtedly be reread a time or two whenever I need to remember that people really can change, and it’s worth it to keep giving, keep loving, and keep forgiving.
My Favorite Quotes
“I’m getting out of here. I’ve got to go acquire more social skills before we meet again.”
“I want everything for [her]. To be that shoulder she needs to cry on, to support her as she reaches for whatever she wants to reach for. I want to come home to her and download my day, and share everything, and listen as she does the same. She’s the best part of my day, the part I strive to get to and do my best for, so that when I’m there, when I get to see her, be with her and hold her, I know the very best of me has come to that moment.”
“People didn’t change just because you had or because you wanted them to.”
“Toppling idols can be a messy business.”
“People are far more complex than the boxes we put them in.”
“A loving gentle soul is made by and through fire. A loving gentle soul doesn’t get that way because life keeps it all safe and sheltered, up in a box on a shelf. Life isn’t so kind. It’s a gift from God and it’s also a hard-fought choice.”
“You’ve got good friends who have been there for you, and that doesn’t change when things go well, as I hope they will for you two. In fact, I believe we need our friends, their support and grounding influence, more when things do go well. It’s in those times pride can set us up for a good toppling. A man doesn’t take his wife for granted in the trenches, only in the towers.”
About the Author
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries — who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. Katherine’s first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist and winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut as well as Carol Awards for both Best Debut and Best Contemporary. She is also the writer behind Lizzy & Jane and the The Bronte Plot – all contemporary stories with a bit of “classics” flair. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, former marketer, avid chocolate consumer and, randomly, a tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago.