This is another book that was recommended by my step-sister to my mom and then to me (sensing a pattern?). When I first read the inside cover I was immediately skeptical. Allegra Goodman was called the Jane Austen of this generation. As a huge Austen fan, I do not take comparisons lightly. After reading the book, I'm not sure I'm totally on board with the ties to Austen, but I loved the book. Another night spent reading way too late and getting way too little sleep.
As with any book that compares to Austen, there was of course a healthy dose of romance. The really nice thing about this story is that it isn't about cookie cutter romances. Not all of the relationships ended the way I expected and the characters certainly weren't perfect. The side material (the jobs and interests of the characters, as well as the public affairs that provided the background to the story) were refreshingly complex and sophisticated. Technology, antique books, cooking and religion all made an appearance. There was no "dumbing down" of the material and I really appreciated the role 9/11 played in the story. My adolescence was absolutely shaped by the events of 9/11, so I think Goodman's honest portrayal of the shock and impacted of the day really rang true for me.
The locations in the story were also perfectly chosen. As a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, I LOVED Goodman's description of Berkeley. It was quirky, whimsical, absurd, and could not have been more accurate. I also thought it was fantastic that the locations (Berkeley and Cambridge, MA) were a physical manifestation of the two main characters. The locations really emphasized the differences in personalities between the two sisters (another aspect of the story I was able to relate to- my sister and I are as different as two girls could possibly be).
I can't say enough good things about this story and would really encourage you to read it!