The danger in reviewing Patricia Park's book, is that in listing her many accolades & accomplishments, you’ll miss out on the smart fun of her debut novel, Re Jane. Park is not only a Fulbright scholar, but a first-time novelist who earned the author trifecta:
1. The New York Times Sunday Book Review named Re Jane as Editor’s Choice.
2. NPR’s Fresh Air called Re Jane, “a wickedly inventive updating of Jane Eyre…”
3. And O, Oprah’s magazine!!, writes, “Reader, you’ll love her.”
In Re Jane, Park has dared to re-make beloved heroine Jane Eyre into a Korean-American orphan growing up in the ‘00s in Queens, New York. She works at her uncle’s grocery called simply, “Food.”
Jane is desperate to escape the outer boroughs to Manhattan, that core borough which “blazed in its own violet light and threw scraps of shadows on the rest of us,” Park writes. But when Jane's post-college promised dot.com job goes bust, she travels through Manhattan to work in hipster Brooklyn. As a nanny. To another adoptee, a Chinese-American girl, Devon.
Ironies abound, and Park skewers them all. Devon’s mom—the crazy woman in the attic--is recast as a feminist, very meta professor. And Devon’s dad, Rochester, is an ABD, All-But-Dissertation, English prof, languishing at a community college.
As Jane shuttles between worlds--from Korean-American Queens to Brooklyn academe to nanny-on-the-playground, to Seoul, Korea, to her return to New York—I won’t say to which borough—we root for her to find her own path to that violet light.
Jane—and Park—travel the complete range of culture from high to low and back with verve and wit and tenderness.