Thanks to Partner NetGalley for the digital ARC of Katherine Reay's Of Literature and Lattes in exchange for an honest review. The book is available to read.
Katherine Reay's Of Literature and Lattes is a cozy comfort read. There's a warmth that infuses each page as we inhabit the small community of Winsome, Illinois, floating from character to character. I had a sense of dropping into lives in progress, of a shared history that came before and that would continue after the end of the novel.
Though the narrative moves through an array of characters’ perspectives, Reay focuses primarily on Alyssa and Jeremy. Alyssa has fled home to Winsome in disgrace after a Theranos-like scandal ended her employment at Vita XGC. Unfortunately, she's fleeing to a home she had already fled. Her relationship with her mother had always been contentious, but when Alyssa found out that her mother had been cheating, Alyssa broke off contact. Now, she's returning to divorced parents, no job prospects, utter disgrace, and horrible guilt that she was a part of a corrupt company.
Jeremy saw Winsome in the opposite light, moving there in hopes of nurturing his relationship with his young daughter, Becca. He and Becca's mom separated before Becca was born, and he wants to be a true father for her. He and his friend Ryan, a recovering addict, buy the local coffee shop, the Daily Brew, hoping that a complete overhaul can make it a success and allow each to start over.
Alyssa’s and Jeremy’s stories wind together eventually, but they also move within the larger story of the town. We come to know characters who are grieving, who are in love, who are aging. My favorite subplot is the one about Alyssa and her mom, who have to work through decades of resentment and repression to come to know each other again.
Of Literature and Lattes is a novel about redemption and forgiveness, about families born and chosen, about the ways that our communities can save us. The characters here are flawed and human, and I was absorbed in watching them come to terms with their own mistakes and misunderstandings and then working to move past them. It's not an earth shattering novel, nor is it overly plot driven. Instead, Of Literature and Lattes is a beautifully character-focused book that was, for me, a lovely and heartfelt escape.
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.