By the end of the novel, Deresiewicz realizes that Austen is indeed a genius. Her stories are in fact about so much more than the small-town gossip he had originally thought, and teach us about friendship, goodness, and the importance of everyday life. Of Austen, writing Emma he says, "She understood that what fills our days should fill our hearts, and what fills our hearts should fill our novels."
Deresiewicz examines each novel, and explains what they taught him about his own life. Honest about his own shortcomings, he is able to apply the lesson of the novels to help him see how he can change, moving from a sarcastic know-it-all to a good friend, and ultimately husband.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading his insights from the novels, and while I maybe don't get the same things from Austen that he did, I love hearing how others have been influenced by her work, and it was enjoyable seeing an old friend in a new light.