In a world of Jane Austen adaptations, mostly targeted toward younger teenage audiences, Rebecca H. Jamison has written yet another compelling story. Much like Austen’s heroines, Jamison’s are as complex as the circumstances they’re forced to cope with.
The story opens with a suddenly single Elly. She finds herself at a crossroad with a broken heart and a broken family. Her father recently passed away, and her father’s company is in ruins because her ex-fiance’s suspiciously similar company drove them to the ground. But all in all, Elly is the strong one; she is keeping her family together the best she can, while her sister Maren sinks down into a state of woe and depression following the loss of their father.
What unfolds next is a back and forth between Elly and Maren, two very different women with two distinct ways of grieving and moving on, as well as two different approaches to falling in love. Maren has a wilder, more impulsive heart, whereas Elly tiptoes into relationships.
When the family, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is at its wits' end in California, they uproot themselves and move to Maryland, leaving behind the life and friends they have always known. Elly leaves behind Ethan, the man she had started to fall in love with despite her suspicion that something isn’t quite right. Once they family arrives in Maryland, Maren is swept off her feet and saved by a charming stranger.
The beauty of Jamison’s fictional characters is that they are uncannily similar to Austen’s, but completely modernized. Maren is as self-destructive and flippant as Marianne, while Elly is as reserved and mature as Elinor.
Jamison cleanly flips back and forth between narrators, giving readers an insight into each of the sister’s internal workings. The window is opened wide to Maren’s despair and Elly’s hesitations, but with each chapter the sisters inch closer to the cathartic ending they so deserve.
“Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale” is more than a regurgitation of Austen’s classic. It’s almost a supplement meant to enrich an already wholesome, moving story about the strength of sisterhood and family.
Jamison, a Brigham Young University alum, has written a few other Mormon-targeted Austen adaptations, and her storytelling only gets better with each novel. “Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale” contains only clean language and virtuous themes and morals.