Jane is the librarian of stereotypes: solitary, fearful, quiet and plain. But she shakes up her life, and stirs up some terrible hopes, when she begins a penpal relationship with a prisoner - a relationship that takes on unnerving reality with his pending release.
Books in Canada: "Barfoot writes with genuine compassion for the dilemma of a character who is likeable but often genteel to the point of prissiness. In a nice echo of Victorian style, there's even a narrator who butts in, makes comments, and digresses...In its own brave, uncomplicated way, Plain Jane speaks the truth about imagining and hope, and their power to change us."
Hamilton Spectator: ""It's Barfoot's genius that we're still rooting for Jane at the end of this small novel - that we applaud the desperate bid for freedom of this shy woman... Barfoot is plainly excellent."
London Free Press: "A first-rate page-turner...With fine precision and inventive dramatic skill, Barfoot layers character and event toward a surprising yet effective conclusion. The novel is both fascinating and suspenseful and is written with wry and intelligent humour."
Globe & Mail: "Plain Jane is a story about the transforming power of the imagination....Plain Jane seems at first a simple story - but it's a sleeper of a novel, rapidly gathering power and complexity from the drumbeats behind the words."
Winnipeg Free Press: "Jane Smith may be the most unappealing character Joan Barfoot has ever conceived. But she's also one of the most deceptively complex and compelling....Ms. Barfoot manipulates us intellectually in a wild rush toward the final pages as surely as any thriller writer with far more visceral tools."
Halifax Daily News: "A masterful job of tracing Jane's days and nights...The fact that she opened the door to chaos is what the book's about, and it's an interesting journey from Jane's self-made prison to a kind of freedom."
Quill & Quire: "A black comedy about a young woman desperate for love and adventure. At its best, Plain Jane is worthy of comparison with such contemporary masters of black comedy and biting sarcasm as Bernice Rubens and Fay Weldon."