I'm kind of on a roll with books considered to be "re-telling's" of classic literature, aren't I? Well this one is a re-telling of Jane Eyre, which I realize is going to make you love it or hate it.
Re Jane - Patricia Park
Journeying from Queens to Brooklyn to Seoul, and back, this is a fresh, contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre and a poignant Korean American debut
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. Re Jane is a bright, comic story of falling in love, finding strength, and living not just out of obligation to others, but for one’s self.
I'm going to be honest, the first group of people I think that will enjoy this book are people who are Asian and have family who identifies with the old country more than they do America. Because the entire book kind of circles around that with Jane being half-Korean and half-American, but living with her very Korean uncle and his family since her parents are long gone. I also have to be honest that I am not a huge Jane Eyre fan and I can't even lie and tell you I finished it. There was a summer a few years ago where I planned on reading several classics to say I did it and I failed miserably and decided maybe it was a good thing I didn't go to college to study literature after all. But this book? I enjoyed. It's funny, there are a lot of one-liners in it that made me laugh and I kind of felt sorry for Jane.
Her uncle is kind of a jerk to her but it's hard to tell if it's because he doesn't actually like her and only took her on in his family out of familial duty versus wanting to make sure she grew up OK, or if his personality is such that he's just that way with everyone. She's kind of like Harry Potter in a sense. Sure, they take care of and provide for her but they don't really want her there and they hold her mother's indiscretions against her, though her mother has been dead for years. So it comes as no surprise that as soon as an opportunity to leave her uncle's house comes up, she takes it despite not being totally sure she wants to do it.
Which is how she becomes an au pair for a Brooklyn family who recently adopted a daughter from China. Her "interview" and the discovery that not all Asian looking people hail from China, is kind of hilarious and then you immediately feel bad for laughing because it feels like you're laughing at a minority. But I wasn't! I promise!
The book itself is very chick-lit and modern, something that would appeal more to a younger generation versus the original Jane Eyre. I can't draw comparisons between the two obviously, but I think even if this wasn't being marketed as a re-telling, it would be a great read for anyone. It's engaging, it keeps you wondering what's going to happen to Jane, and the family dynamics of her uncle's home versus the Mazer-Farley family (who she is an au pair for) are so completely different and seeing Jane navigate the two is kind of hilarious. I mean it's like being in two totally different countries though you're only really in different boroughs. And of course, Jane meets a guy. I can't tell you what happens with said guy because it's a major spoiler, but it really is refreshing for an author to say, "You know what? I'm not going with the obvious, and I'm not going the easy route because every one else does." and ends up doing something that makes you want to high five her. THANK YOU for not going the obvious route.
You can get your very own copy of Re Jane either on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. And of course, if you want to know more about Patricia Park, head over to her website!