Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette – Book Review

Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette
Published by Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin

Grief is a funny thing: it can cause a woman who loses her husband, the love of her life, to walk around day after day bra-less, with her deceased husband’s camouflage apron tied over her clothes. This is Zell’s experience, at least, ever since the accident while her husband Nick was in New Orleans reporting on a local team who headed down for recovery efforts.  The grief may also be part of the reason she voices what she imagines to be her dog, Captain Ahab’s, thoughts in pirate vernacular. Although she has rarely ever cooked anything – let alone baked something  – Zell decides to enter the Polly Pinch baking contest when she realizes that the prize money is exactly the amount that Nick talked about raising for the people of New Orleans before he failed to come home. All the remains to be seen is whether this new venture will help her heal or cause her to sink more deeply into her depression.

I have to admit, I was slightly hesitant about “Simply from Scratch” at the beginning. Zell endeared herself greatly to me when she made comments about her newfound eccentricities being just her “widow style.” But then she started saying “balls” all over the place, which sort of shocked me. I wasn’t really expecting this from a widow entering a baking contest. But Zell isn’t your stereotypical widow. She’s a fiesty young woman who has had a terrible, unexpected loss. Although she has real, raw grief, she’s still a fiesty woman – even when it is only expressed by talking a pirate voice for a dog. Although I wasn’t sure what to think of her initially, Zell’s tough-exterior-ed vulnerability made her hugely endearing to me.

Bessette’s writing and plotting were strong. Indeed, I loved the way she slowly revealed what happened to Nick in New Orleans and what gift it was that he left her. But Zell was the real star of the story. Bessette wrote her in such a real way with such real heart that she was hugely endearing and brought me to a point near the end of “Simply from Scratch” where I could simply not bear to put down the book.

Highly recommended.

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13 comments to Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette – Book Review

  • I have to admit that the premise doesn’t have me all that excited either. But if I ever come across it, I’ll remember your recommendation and pick it up.

  • Glad that the beginning halted you a little too. I never got to the part where I couldn’t put it down, but I did think it was enjoyable. The plotting, I agree, was done really well. And Nick’s last present was adorable, and I loved that I didn’t know about it until the end of the book.

  • Beth Hoffman

    I, too, felt the writing and the plotting were well done. And I enjoyed that Zell wasn’t presented as a stereotypical widow. Loved your review, Jen.

  • I’m hoping to start this one in the next few days. Great review!

  • Thanks for the review. I am receiving a copy of this and looking forward to reading it!

  • Wow. I’ve seen this around and wanted to read it because I love the cover. (Of course, now that I’ve read your review, I think the apron should have been camo. Just sayin’!) The premise doesn’t sound like something I would normally like, but I’m intrigued anyway. What a great review! I will definitely be watching for this one!

  • I think it’s great to have a widow who isn’t presented as a stereotype, because really and truly, we all grieve differently. The book sounds good to me.

  • I’m really looking forward to reading this one soon. I’m glad to see you liked it!

  • Did she say “hot as balls”? That is one of my favorites. I love it when a book that seems to have a plot we’ve seen before jumps the tracks and takes a different path. Nice review.

  • I’m with Heather — why not a camo apron? I’m not convinced this will work for me; perhaps a bit too much in the women’s fiction class.

  • I would really like to read this one. Everyone deals with grief in differing strange ways. Whatever works for one. I also hope there is a happy ending. I love happy endings!!

  • You had me at baking contest. Actually, even without the baking contest, this sounds like a book with a really interesting main character. I love the way she had her own way of grieving and wasn’t afraid to show that. I’m definitely putting this one on my tbr list.