Zell Carmichael is a young widow grieving for her husband Nick, who was killed in post Katrina New Orleans. She spends her days alone in her apartment wearing her husband’s camouflage apron and speaking “pirate-speak” to her Greyhound, Ahab. When a minor baking incident forces Zell to evacuate her home she meets her nine-year old neighbor, Ingrid - a smart, lonely girl who believes that T.V. celebrity chef Polly Pinch is her mother. Ingrid's obsession spurs Zell to enter Polly Pinch's baking contest. More than just baking, Simply from Scratch deals with grief, healing and the unexpected relationships people form.
When Lit *Chick asked me to review this book I had high expectations. I was intrigued by the title, insert description and cover (I know, I know!). For some reason I was expecting something similar to one of my favorite books, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. (Her endorsement may have been the culprit. - Mel) Unfortunately, Simply from Scratch fell short. I felt the reader was falsely led by the characters to believe there was some big secret surrounding Nick’s death. I was waiting for a big reveal that never came. Also, as a foodie, I was slightly disappointed with the lack of baking and preparing for the competition. Lastly, I felt that one major character that “disappears” mid book was unnecessary and made the story change for me. (I won’t elaborate because this could be a spoiler.) On the positive side, I enjoyed the growing relationship between Zell and Ingrid and how they were unexpectedly helping each other with their own sadness. I would give this book 3 stars.
Check out the author's website: http://www.aliciabessette.com - if you're interested the first chapter is available to read.
Melanie adds: I too thought this would be a fun, light, foodie read and was intrigued by the post-Katrina storyline. There wasn't much baking (although a recipe is included) and I had a hard time connecting with Zell. The mystery surrounding Nick's death was clunkyand as Trish mentioned the reaction to the "missing" character didn't ring true. I couldn't help but grin during the scene with the baby bouncing on grandpa's knee to the rhyme "Trot Trot to Boston" - we have done it with all our littles. I get a soft spot for stories that contain a familiar element, especially one so special and specific. The strength of Simply from Scratch is in exploring the idea of grief in community - how sorrow affects many, not just the person closest to it. Still an enjoyable read, and with adjusted expectations, worth a look.
Many thanks to Dutton Publicity for a review copy.