Title: Starting from Scratch
Author: Susan Gilbert-Collins
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Olivia Tschetter seems to be stuck in a rut. Two months after her beloved mother’s funeral, she’s still at her childhood home, puttering around the kitchen whipping up meals instead of defending her dissertation and moving forward with her life. Her mother loved to cook and sent out a monthly newsletter with cooking tips and answers to her readers questions. Olivia sees it as her duty to finish up her mother’s last newsletter. In the process of her research, as well as her part-time job at Meals on Wheels, she finds solace and healing in the food around her.
Starting from Scratch is another entry into a growing women’s fiction niche: books about food. Her novel centers around food, and includes recipes in between the chapters. While I don’t mind recipes in books (though it is starting to become a bit overused), I prefer them to be in the back of the book so they don’t interrupt the pace of the narrative. Still, I did appreciate that Gilbert-Collins’ book was a bit different. The centerpiece was certainly food, but it wasn’t about that. Olivia uses food and cooking to cope with her mother’s death, but it takes a backseat to her personal journey.
Olivia was an endearing character. She was easy to like and had a sweet, generous personality. I felt bad that she was being pushed and pulled by her family, but at the same time, I could understand their reasoning. The secondary characters weren’t quite as well-developed, but for the most part they were charming as well. Ruby, Olivia’s sister, was a bit strange and difficult to like, but her circumstances become more clear as the book progresses. The dynamics of this family are also fun and heartwarming. Gilbert-Collins captured the essence of a large, loud, fun family very well in this novel.
Starting from Scratch was a sweet, moving novel about dealing with grief. As Olivia begins to face her grief head-on, she makes some realizations about herself. It’s very rewarding to watch her grow as the novel progresses. This was a charming book; I look forward to seeing what Susan Gilbert-Collins does next.