Simply From Scratch – Book Review

The winner of Polly’s Desserts That Warm the Soul baking contest receives twenty thousand dollars. Twenty thousand. The exact amount Nick mentioned in his e-mail when he told me about the money he wanted to raise for the people of New Orleans as they rebuild after the hurricane and the floods. – from Simply from Scratch, page 2 –

Rose Ellen Carmichael (aka: Zell) is still grieving the loss of her husband nearly a year and a half after a tragic accident on a charity mission to New Orleans took his life. She wears his camouflage apron and speaks “pirate” to their aging greyhound Ahab – all as a way to comfort herself. She avoids the attic where her husband’s camera equipment only reminds her of all she has lost, and cuts off her contact with long-time friends and relatives.

But, one day, her neighbor’s Polly Pinch cooking magazine accidentally ends up in Zell’s mailbox. This unexpected, minor event leads her to a baking contest and an unforgettable relationship with her neighbor’s nine year old daughter Ingrid (who is grieving the absence of her mother). Simply from Scratch is about Zell’s journey through grief, the importance of friendships, and the long slow process of moving forward after loss.

Alicia Bessette’s first novel engaged me. Ingrid is a kid whose precocious personality grabs the reader right from the start. Ahab, the dog, was also a favorite character…and I could definitely relate to the magical intervention a dog brings when a person is hurting. I don’t want to spoil the book by giving away any plot points, but I will say that I was not totally satisfied with how Bessette handles Ahab’s character in the latter pages of the book. Despite that, I found Simply from Scratch a sweet novel that made me smile, but also had me wiping away tears.

Bessette handles a large cast of characters deftly. Besides Zell, Ingrid and Ahab there is: Garrett (Ingrid’s hunky father), EJ (Nick’s best friend who witnessed his demise), France (a woman cop who is an old pal of Zell’s from high school), Trudy (the chain saw weilding ex-home economics teacher) and Father Chet (who pops in and out and is the origin of the novel’s over arching theme “We are all connected.”). The book is told from the alternating viewpoints of Zell, and EJ and is interspersed with emails from the departed Nick, which allows the reader to examine the story from more than one perspective. Bessette also treats the reader to flashbacks in order to gain a sense of the relationships impacted by Nick’s death.

Overall, I found Simply from Scratch to be a quick, enjoyable read. Recommended for readers who enjoy women’s fiction that explores grief, loss, and recovery.

*FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog.

By clicking on the link below you will be redirected to Indiebound to learn more about the book. If you chose to purchase Simply From Scratch through an Indie Bookstore on their site via this link, I will receive a small commission based on the sale.

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  1. I have been wanting to read this — I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! Makes me feel better to pick this up now!

  2. Glad to see this is worth reading!

  3. This one really appeals to me – I’m a sucker for anything with a dog character 🙂

    Your review was perfect, and made me want to read the book right now!

    • bee on September 3, 2010 at 15:53

    A chain-saw weilding ex-home economics teacher? Sounds interesting 🙂

    • zibilee on September 6, 2010 at 06:02

    I love books that can make you both laugh and cry, so this one sounds like a winner to me! I am so glad that you had a great time with it and I will be adding it to my wish list! Thanks for the great review!

    • Wendy on September 13, 2010 at 09:46

    Coffee and a Book: I hope you’ll enjoy the book!

    Kathy: It is 🙂

    Ravenous: Glad you enjoyed the review 🙂 I’m also a sucker for dogs in novels (of course!)

    Bee: LOL – yes, the characters are interesting in this book!

    Zibilee: You’re welcome 🙂

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