Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette - Book Review

Simply from Scratch  by Alicia Bessette
Dutton 2010

Format? Hardback

Source? picked up on a sale table somewhere some time ago...from my TBR shelves as I was cleaning out.

Why?  I was looking for something light...but not too light.  Something about someone (female protagonists are best for me it seems) who is damaged but is strong enough to muddle through somehow.  

Title? literal and figurative meaning.
Cover?  I'm a cover freak.  The cover of Simply from Scratch almost made me put it in the library box.  The cover makes you think the book will be about a young mother baking in the kitchen with her pink pinstripe apron and Uggish looking boots on.  Thankfully the little excerpt at the bottom indicates the book is about grief and friendship...and of course the inside cover blurb confirms that.
I don't recall a single thing about Uggs in this a matter of fact, I wouldn't think Uggs would be suitable for the snowy weather in Massachusetts.
Zell never wears a pink apron either...she actually wears Nick's camouflage one.

What Now?
I looked to see if Alicia Bessette has written anything else, but all I could find was a reprint of what seemed like the same story as Simply from Scratch...but renamed A Pinch of Love? Or the other way around?

Goodreads suggested Starting from Scratch by Susan Gilbert-Collins so I've added it to my Wishlist :)

Golden Lines

"Aye," I say in Captain Ahab Voice - that of a sloshed but kindly pirate. "Let it burn.  Yer a saucy wench, Rose-Ellen." (2)

For a couple of years now, my heart does this weird thing, at weird times.  Like now: four in the morning.  The weird heart thing is sort of like being a widow - familiar by now, and yet completely foreign. (13)

Nick was one of those guys who always knew he'd get married, buy a house, and get a dog.  He accomplished all three tasks in exactly that order. (51)

Ye Olde Home Ec Witch pinches Ingrid's cheek.  "How did you get here, Pumpkin Pie?" (79)

I'm crying as hard as I did when I found out Nick was gone.  I have no idea what prompts the sobs.  They just come.  And whoever says it takes one year to recover from the death of a spouse is crazier than I am.  Balls. (95)

Nick turned and locked his grey eyes on E.J. (152)

I'm five feet from Ahab.  Four feet.  I hear his teeth chatter.  I see muscles quiver under his fur as snowflakes land there. 
Three feet.  I reach out my arm.  "Cookie time, Cappy," I whisper.  My fingers are one foot from his rump. "Please." (187)

As I get up to leave, she throws both arms around me, rests her chin on my head, and steers me to the door. "Well, Zell, there's only one thing I know that's harder than death," she says.  She helps me into my coat.  "And it seems to me like you're doing a pretty decent job at it."
"What's that?" I say, yanking on my mittens.
"Life." (223)

Red hat against blue, blue sky. 
I know where she is. (250)

"I've got to start from scratch now," says Zell, her voice quiet and steady.  "Every day.  Every minute, it seems." (291)

We are all connected. (298)


Rose Ellen Carmichael Roy (Zell) lost her husband Nick in a freak accident in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  Their lives had been mapped out perfectly, high school sweethearts married, promising artistic careers started, and greyhound dog rescued...until The Trip. 
It's been a year, but Zell's life has not progressed much since the day she found out Nick was gone. 
She's pretty much going through the motions and still numb when she meets her 9 year old neighbor, Ingrid, whose mother left shortly after she was born.
 Ingrid is quite precocious and is enamored with TV personality Polly Pinch.  Ingrid convinces Zell to enter a Polly Pinch baking contest with her, and they begin spending a lot of time together.  
Zell begins to breath again, albeit slowly, and some days are one step forward and two steps back.
But she is breathing.
Life is by no means easy for Zell, Ingrid, or any of the other characters in this snowy but warm little Massachusetts community, but they do the best they can to bring closure to the tragedy that took Nick's life and pull together as they always have in the past.

What I Liked

Zell - Rose Ellen Carmichael Roy

Loved that Zell and Nick were high school sweethearts in a small town and they are still adult friends with their high school friends...such history with one another.  

Ingrid - "I love ya and I like ya" of my favorite sayings from a character ever :) 

Ingrid's dad- Garret Knox - a good guy...pretty trusting at first to leave his kid with a neighbor he hasn't even met, but after that, a really nice guy.

Ingrid's allergy to peanuts - this was an obvious foreshadowing for a major event...but I still enjoyed it.

Captain Ahab - dog - I'm a dog lover!  And I love it so much when an author integrates breed details into a story - Ahab is a greyhound...a rescued one at that.  They can only let him off leash in enclosed areas due to his prior training of chasing the rabbit.  All he knows is to run.  

Zell's job - draws medical illustrations for a living - so very unique!

Hank the skeleton - loved this detail :) 

Memory Smacks - Zell the widow...her personality, her daily routine, her loneliness, her pain.  Bessette really go this part right...I could feel Zell's pain in my own chest on many occasions.  

Ye Olde Home Ec Witch - Mrs. Chaffin - Trudy - I'd like to be Trudy cares at all about what anyone thinks or thought of chainsaw in hand doing what I do best...and proud of it.

Massachusetts - snow - Bessette described these portions well too...I could feel the cold, see the snow (what little experience I have with it), not just its beauty but the possibility of serious danger as well.

Nick's emails - a way to get to know Nick...I did feel as I read Nick's emails that the Nick in the emails didn't really match Zell's memories of Nick...of course Nick was growing as a person on The Trip, and maybe that's why?

What I Didn't Like

Ingrid's mom - who leaves her child?  I realize there are reasons sometimes...but Ingrid's mom doesn't have one that in my mind makes any sense.  

Celebrity Chef Polly Pinch - Meals in a Cinch - Polly Pinch was a little over the top for me...way too sweet and way too silly, not to mention her unforgivable secret.

All the pirate talk was a little overdone I thought, but then I remembered that I talk like my dog all the time. Oy.

The Trip - the accident was

Nick and Zell's friend E.J. thinks he should have died instead of Nick.  Many of their friends were on The Trip as well, so I was never sure why Bessette decided to give E.J.  alternating sections in each chapter.  I thought about it on my review while writing this post and still couldn't figure out what I was missing.  :(  

Zell's heart "condition" and the lead up to a very flat ending seemed out of place to me.  Her palpitations sounded like panic to me...and it would have made total sense for it to end out that way...

The present in the way in the world I could have not opened it.

Mr. Bedard's cat :( 

Overall Recommendation

This book was my first read that caught my attention after my reading funk.  I'm drawn right now to books about women who crawl their way back from trauma of some kind.  Zell is a survivor.  One day at a time with the help of her friends.

The Author

Alicia Bessette


No comments:

Post a Comment