“Re Jane is snappy and memorable, with its clever narrator and insights on clashing cultures.”—Entertainment Weekly
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.
Journeying from Queens to Brooklyn to Seoul, and back, this is a fresh, contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre and a poignant Korean American debut.
Park's debut is a cheeky, clever homage to Jane Eyre, interwoven with touching meditations on Korean-American identity. Jane Re has never felt like she fit in, and not just because she's a half-Korean orphan in the "all-Korean, all the time" enclave of Flushing, Queens. After graduating from CUNY, she's still stocking shelves in her uncle's grocery store while her overachieving peers have moved on to graduate school and high-profile finance jobs. Desperate for a change of scenery, Jane takes a job as an au pair for the Mazer-Farleys, a Brooklyn couple with an adopted Chinese daughter. Jane comes to love her charge, her new neighborhood, and her new bosses. But when the friendly bond she shares with Ed Farley goes a step too far, she flees New York for Seoul, where she gets in touch with her roots and uncovers a new sense of identity. Though the Bront references occasionally land with the subtlety of an anvil, Park's clever one-liners make the story memorable, and her riffs on cultural identity will resonate with any reader who's ever felt out of place.
A surprise gift
I was reading an article in the NYT on my phone and they mentioned this book. With the wonders of modern technology I was able to start reading it in minutes. I opted for the preview and was instantly drawn in. I am a Japanese American who grew up in Staten Island, so found many things relatable, when it came to race and being a New Yorker who lived through those historic events. Spoiler alert. I loved reading about the blackout because it was such a strange day. At first we were all so scared and then it was like a celebration when we found out it was caused by a squirrel and not a terrorist group. I also liked reading about the different neighborhoods and how they have changed, especially Carroll Gardens. I have a friend who lived on court street and was mugged in front of her building. Now the mugging happens with the cost of real estate.
I liked that the novel touched upon so many topics (adopting Chinese babies, immigrants, Asian family values, going back to "the homeland" when it was never your home, girlfriends, New York and the b and t crowd, outer boroughs). I could go on and on. I highly recommend this book, it has something for everyone.
Charming and entertaining!
This coming of age novel with a twist was very entertaining and thought provoking. Characters were well developed and likeable! Great read!