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by Cindy Jones

Pub Date: March 29th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-200397-3
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

A young Texan on the run from bad relationships, familial and otherwise, spends a summer in Mansfield Park with Jane.

Lily Berry’s mother has just passed away from cancer, leaving her two daughters memento necklaces crafted from her only jewelry. Lily has immersed herself in Jane Austen’s novels, trying to parse her confusing romantic entanglements, most recently with Martin, who’s dumped her for excessive neediness. Shortly after his wife’s funeral, a new girlfriend named Sue takes over Lily’s father’s life, and clears her childhood home of any vestige of her mother’s existence. Mr. Berry exhibits shocking coldness when questioned by Lily and her sister Karen about his plans to marry Sue within weeks of his wife’s death. In despair, having recently been fired for reading Jane on the job, Lily, accompanied by an imaginary guardian angel she’s named My Jane Austen, boards a plane bound for a British festival, Literature Live, dedicated to combining Austen scholarship with Austen role-playing by fans known as Janeites. Lily pretends to be a professional thespian to act out Austen-inspired skits, and feigns expertise in business in order to convince the conference organizers she can help save the economically threatened stately home housing Literature Live. Aside from spats over skits, fomented by a tyrannical director, Magda, Jones’ chief preoccupation is parallel love triangles. Magda is having an affair with her supervisor until his wife and three screaming toddlers inconveniently show up. Lily is falling for Willis, a deacon preparing for ordination as an Anglican priest. Once the two overcome their reticence, a rival emerges: the daughter of wealthy sponsors of Literature Live. There’s the triangle at the center of Mansfield Park, the summer’s keynote novel. But most compelling and least developed is the triangle at the heart of Lily’s inherited anomie: She discovers that their father may have led a double life with Sue and that the Berry sisters are not his only children. 

An unfocused debut which dances uneasily around its central conflict.