Jane Morrow is living with her aunt and uncle and working in their fortune cookie factory after dropping out of university with nothing but her poetry thesis left to complete for her degree. Writing fortunes for the cookies and sharing a room with her 11 year old cousin Min isn’t how she pictured her life would be at 23, but she’s grateful for the safe place while she figures out her future. In the meantime, she takes every chance she can get to watch The Goddess in Glasses as she eats and taps away at her laptop across the street at Noodle Treasure.
Sutton St. James has a decision to make: stay in New York for a surgical residency, or take a fellowship overseas to do stem cell research and hopefully find a cure for her mother’s MS. But it’s not easy to get work done when you’re the daughter of a former surgeon general who’s known as “America’s doctor.” Noodle Heaven is the perfect place for Sutton to study and work on articles, where the food is delicious, the conversation isn’t distracting, and she doesn’t have to think about her father’s conservatism, including his anti-stem cell stance. One day she looks out the window and notices a beautiful, androgynous young woman and is instantly attracted, all the while reminding herself that she doesn’t have time for a relationship.
Jane knows Sutton might be leaving town in a few months, but she’s happy to take all the time she can get. Sutton loves her time with Jane and her gregarious family, but can she juggle what she wants with her obligations when her own family is hit with a major scandal?
The character work in this book is strong, and I liked that it shifted between Jane and Sutton’s perspectives. Jane is so tender hearted, giving to her community, whether it’s her family, Sue the apothecary, or anyone else who needs it. Everyone sees how wonderful she is except her, having taken a hit to her self confidence after her thesis advisor died and her new advisor didn’t understand her project. I also appreciated the view into her family history, how difficult it was for her mother when she married a white man instead of a Chinese man her parents approved of, and how that helped shape some of Jane’s own views.
Sutton is closed off and protective of herself and her time because she’s used to people wanting to take advantage of her status, and of her parents’ disapproval, particularly of her sexuality. Seeing her blossom under Jane’s gentle care and consideration is beautiful, and I loved watching her learn how to be part of a community.
The side characters in Confucius Jane are well drawn and distinct. Min is a perfectly precocious preteen without being irritating or a dimensionless plot moppet, Jane and Sutton’s family are so different from each other, and Sue is a perfect example of how some people can be your family of choice.
The Writing Style
Confucius Jane is very well written, but that doesn’t surprise me. This might be her first book under her given name, but Katie Lynch has published a bunch of excellent books already as Nell Stark, and I particularly love her princess books. This book feels different from anything I’ve read from her before, and I think it’s because Chinatown stands out almost as its own character in the book, with a touch of magic realism that works very well.
Everything. I loved it from cover to cover, or whatever the virtual equivalent is when you read it on the Kindle.
I wanted to eat so many dumplings and noodles when I read this book.
I typically avoid new adult stories as I’m edging ever further into my 30s and don’t identify with the characters anymore, but this one was a joy to read and provided a perfect escape from life for a little while. Grab a blanket and go cuddle up with this book.
Excerpt from Confucius Jane by Katie Lynch
“If I’m nice?” Sutton sounded affronted, but when Jane glanced over, she was already perusing the menu above the restaurant. “Vietnamese Pineapple Mayo? On French fries?”
“On Belgian fries.”
“Is there really that much of a difference?”
“Light-years. Belgian fries are thicker, and they’re always served in a paper cone. Usually with mayonnaise and ketchup.” When Sutton continued to look skeptical, Jane shook her head. “Seriously, just trust me . And if you ever find yourself in Belgium, go to a friterie.”
A few minutes later, Jane watched as Sutton took a tentative bite from a large, golden-brown fry slathered with a sauce called “Honey Mustard Mayo.” She chewed, swallowed, and frowned.
“Uh-oh.” She shook her head gravely.
“Uh-oh?” Jane couldn’t believe it. Sutton had enjoyed her first dim sum experience despite chicken feet and tripe, but she wasn’t sold on the best fry stand in New York?
“Uh-oh.” A slow, teasing smile bloomed across her face. “I think I’m addicted.”
Jane couldn’t believe she’d fallen for Sutton’s acting . “You suck!”
“Only if you’re nice.” With a wink, Sutton popped the rest of the fry in her mouth.
Totally flustered, Jane felt her own jaw drop. When she tried to speak, she only managed to stammer. Finally, she took a deep breath, looked away from Sutton’s lips, and forced her own to work properly. Two could play at this game.
“Was that a promise?”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9780765383792
Publisher: Forge Books
Katie Lynch Online
Note: I received a free review copy of this book for review. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.