Simply from Scratch

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Overview

Read Alicia Bessette's blogs and view other content on the Penguin Community.

Alicia Bessette writes with compassion and tenderness to illuminate the many unexpected ways people save each others' lives every day-often without even knowing it. Poignant, bittersweet, and strikingly honest, Simply from Scratch is a radiant celebration of friendship and the strength of the human spirit.

Rose-Ellen ("Zell") ...

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Overview

Read Alicia Bessette's blogs and view other content on the Penguin Community.

Alicia Bessette writes with compassion and tenderness to illuminate the many unexpected ways people save each others' lives every day-often without even knowing it. Poignant, bittersweet, and strikingly honest, Simply from Scratch is a radiant celebration of friendship and the strength of the human spirit.

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 the Desserts 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.

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  • Simply from Scratch
    Simply from Scratch  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bessette's too eager-to-please debut features a young widow's profoundly quirky quest to move on after her husband's death. A year after Zell's husband dies in New Orleans while on a post-Katrina relief mission, Zell, who frequently talks to her dog in pirate-speak, is still a mess. Next door, amazingly precocious nine-year-old Ingrid believes TV celebrity chef Polly Pinch is her mother. Coincidentally, Zell won't go near her kitchen, as it's just too full of painful memories. But after Zell and Ingrid form an unlikely friendship, they enter a Polly Pinch baking contest so Ingrid can meet Polly and Zell can win the ,000 prize and donate it to Katrina relief. What follows is the requisite learning of lessons about how to cope with grief and loss. For all of the nice intentions, this reads flat, stale, and too tidy. Zell and Ingrid, meanwhile, are victims of cuteness's stranglehold on the narrative. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews

In this nicely wrought debut, a young widow emerges from her grief thanks to the intrusion of a nine-year-old neighbor and an unwinnable cooking contest.

As the novel opens, Rose-Ellen, Zell to her friends, nearly burns down her house. Attempting to enter the Polly Pinch Desserts That Warm the Soul Baking Contest (a satire of the perky Rachael Ray), Zell doesn't notice there's a wrapped present in her preheating oven. The present was left over a year ago by her late husband Nick ina favorite hiding place from the noncooking Zell, and now it is a cindered mess, left unopened and thrown in the attic. The fire serves as a happy catalyst—she begins to reconnect with old friends whom she's pushed away, and she meets her new neighbor Ingrid, the little girl whose misdelivered Polly Pinch magazine inspired Zell's attempt at baking. It's not the baking that interests either of them—Zell wants the $20,000 cash prize to donate to a Hurricane Katrina relief fund—Nick, who worked for their small-town Massachusetts newspaper, was killed in a freak accident while photographing the rebuilding in New Orleans—while Ingrid is obsessed with Polly Pinch because the motherless girl is convinced Polly is her real mom. Zell goes along with this (though she admits, if the redheaded, freckled Polly Pinch were African-American, she would look an awful lot like Ingrid), but the wild story alienates Ingrid at school, and so she and Zell bond and begin baking together. While Ingrid's hunky dad is busy with law school, Zell, her beloved greyhound Ahab and Ingrid spend countless hours in the kitchen creating perfectly inedible desserts. In a story about loneliness, the two are a perfect fit, both attempting in their own ways to re-create connections to their missing loved ones. Then the unthinkable happens—they finally make something good enough to get in the runoffs and are invited on the show, where Ingrid can finally meet her "mother."

Quietly charming, with a dash of romance.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525951827
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/5/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the 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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2010

    Executes the recipe for well made art perfectly

    Though it looks like it will be a book primarily focused on a friendship based around the kitchen, this novel is a superbly crafted tale about coming to terms with loss and understanding what it is to seek hope. Bessette writes with all heart. The level of detail, the moments of natural humor, the fullness of the characters and the care with which everything comes together is the real treat this artist gives us. This is an entertaining book that will surprise you, but it may also make you wiser.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2010

    This is a cute book with a sweet, simple message.

    Simply From Scratch is a sweet, easy-reading book about a woman, Rose Ellen, whose husband dies in the aftermath of Katrina. She sinks into a deep depression until a little girl and her dad move into the other side of her duplex. Enter Ingrid, an irresistible little girl obsessed with a tv cooking show, convinced that the host, Polly Pinch, is her long, lost mother. Together Rose Ellen and Ingrid help each other find their way after their losses.

    This is a cute book with a sweet, simple message. The characters are fun and quirky, if mostly larger than life. The theme of grief is an oft explored one, but I do appreciate books, like this one, that show the irregular and unpredictable path grief usually takes. All-in-all and enjoyable read and I'll be sure to check out Alicia Bessette's next one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2010

    What a Treasure!

    I love discovering new authors and this book was everything I had hoped for. Ms. Bessette's debut novel is a wonderful tale about loss, the redemptive spirit, and the power of community. Throughout the book, her characters grow inside the reader and these characters develop inside of this story that is so perfectly told. I look forward to her future work and recommend this book to anyone looking for a great book about hope and dealing with loss!

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  • Posted August 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Bridget's Review

    Simply From Scratch is a heart-wrenching and intriguing all at the same time. Grieving for her husband, Zell is the type of character that you can't help but get attached to. Alicia's writing and attention to detail is superb.

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    Posted September 16, 2010

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