Review: Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette
Author: Alicia Bessette
Publisher: August 5, 2010; Dutton
Rating: 2.5 Bookmarks (borrow it)
Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis: More than a year after her husband’s sudden death, Zell Roy is still attempting to navigate her grief with the help of her greyhound, 9-year-old neighbor, and a baking contest that she feels destined to win.
As much as I try not to be swayed by covers, the pink stripes and besmocked torso beckoned from the library shelf. I read the synopsis and knew full well what I was getting into–chick lit–but hoped that the weighty issues described on the jacket would make it a bit more substantial.
Rose-Ellen “Zell” Carmichael Roy had a long and storied history with her late husband Nick. Together since childhood, they shared a special bond and passion for life. While on a photography assignment in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, Nick Roy is tragically killed.
Bessette keeps the manner of his death from readers until nearly the end of the book but uses characterization and his own emails to Zell to give us a sense for the man Nick was. I enjoyed reading Nick’s emails–he was obviously a dynamic character who was profoundly impacted by what he witnessed in New Orleans–and wish that Bessette would have given me more.
I struggled to connect with Zell and a few of her quirks made reading slow going. She speaks to her dog, Captain Ahab, in pirate language which I found distracting and unnecessary. In the wake of Nick’s death, Zell isolates herself from everyone–her family, her friends, and even refuses to take calls from her cardiologist about a lingering heart issue.
The baking contest and her young neighbor (complete with handsome single-father) seem like convenient fixes to Zell’s issues. There are a few plot twists and turns, but nothing out of the ordinary. This was a quick read with a quality subplot in the form of commentary through Nick’s eyes on the impact and aftermath of Katrina on residents of New Orleans. Alicia Bessette’s debut novel wasn’t a home run for me, but I would be willing to give her future novels a shot.