(For review from Dutton/Penguin)
Rose-Ellen ( Zell ) Carmichael Roy wears her late husband Nick s camouflage apron even when she s not in the kitchen. That's her widow style.
It s been over a year since Nick died tragically during a post-Katrina relief mission in New Orleans. Long enough, according to the grief pamphlets, to have begun to move on with her life. But Zell is still unable to enter her attic, which is full of Nick memories. She hasn t even turned on her oven because cooking was Nick s chore. That is, until she decides to enter the first annual Desserts that Warm the Soul baking contest, hoping to donate the grand prize to Katrina survivors in Nick s memory. Meanwhile, Zell s nine-year-old neighbor, Ingrid Knox, is learning to cope with the loneliness of growing up without a mother. With an imagination as big as her heart, Ingrid treasures her doting father but begins to plot how she will meet the woman who abandoned her so many years ago. When an embarrassing baking mishap brings Zell and Ingrid together, they form an unlikely friendship that will alter both of their lives forever. Together, and with the help of a lively and loveable cast of friends and family, Zell and Ingrid embark on winning theDesserts that Warm the Soul contest -- and learn that through the many sorrows and joys of life, with a little bit of flour and a pinch of love, anything is possible.
Alicia Bessette's debut novel, Simply from Scratch really hit the spot for me. It's kind of sad and kind of not. Zell's husband died during the fall out from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and now it's been over a year and she still can't seem to move on. I've been looking for a story set during this time frame in our history, that I liked for quite awhile and this is it. It's quirky, but it's poignant too! It gives the reader a picture of what it's like to face not only a very public tragedy like, Katrina and a private tragedy like grief all in the same package.
We cry with Zell as she remembers her last memories of Nick, just before he leaves on the relief mission. We laugh with her when she "accidentally" meets Ingrid. This is a book that discovers new ways to grieve and to get back into life. Zell's way back to her own life involved cooking a task that usually Nick's job, but when she and Ingrid enter the "Desserts That Warm the Soul" contest, she finds peace in the process.
I really liked this book a lot and I think readers will be really impressed with Bessette's first novel and will look for more great things from her.
Simply From Scratch is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I am giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Here is more information about author, Alicia Bessette.
Alicia Bessette was born and raised in central Massachusetts and graduated from La Salle University in Philadelphia. A pianist and freelance writer, she and her husband, novelist Matthew Quick, live near Philadelphia with their adopted racing greyhound, Stella. Simply From Scratch is Alicia’s first novel.