By Tembi Locke
Published April 30, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
It was love at first sight when Tembi met professional chef, Saro, on a street in Florence. There was just one problem: Saro’s traditional Sicilian family did not approve of him marrying a black American woman, an actress no less. However, the couple, heartbroken but undeterred, forges on. They build a happy life in Los Angeles, with fulfilling careers, deep friendships and the love of their lives: a baby girl they adopt at birth. Eventually, they reconcile with Saro’s family just as he faces a formidable cancer that will consume all their dreams.
From Scratch chronicles three summers Tembi spends in Sicily with her daughter, Zoela, as she begins to piece together a life without her husband in his tiny hometown hamlet of farmers. Where once Tembi was estranged from Saro’s family and his origins, now she finds solace and nourishment—literally and spiritually—at her mother in law’s table. In the Sicilian countryside, she discovers the healing gifts of simple fresh food, the embrace of a close knit community, and timeless traditions and wisdom that light a path forward. All along the way she reflects on her and Saro’s incredible romance—an indelible love story that leaps off the pages.
In Sicily, it is said that every story begins with a marriage or a death—in Tembi Locke’s case, it is both. Her story is about loss, but it’s really about love found. Her story is about travel, but it’s really about finding a home. It is about food, but it’s really about chasing flavor as an act of remembrance. From Scratch is for anyone who has dared to reach for big love, fought for what mattered most, and needed a powerful reminder that life is…delicious.
I loved everything about this book. Tembi is a beautiful writer--her book made me feel like I could sit down with her and have coffee and talk for hours. The book made me smile and made me cry--the story of Saro's cancer is heartbreaking. Tembi beautifully describes their life together, and writes honestly about her grief. I haven't lost a spouse, but have experienced the loss of a parent, and related to Tembi's feelings, thoughts, anxieties, and behaviors throughout this book. Of course, this book cemented my desire to visit Italy--her descriptions of the food throughout this book were amazing! You will definitely want all the pasta while reading this book. What I love about Italian and Sicilian culture is how their lives center around food. This book also increased my desire to learn Italian!
One of the aspects of this book that I loved the most was her relationship with her mother in law, whom she referred to as Nonna (Italian for grandmother). When she and Saro first were together and even when they were married, their relationship with her and Saro's father was rough. While they did reconcile while Saro was still alive, it amazed me how close Tembi became with Nonna after Saro's death. Given their rocky relationship at first, I'm sure it was so difficult and overwhelming for her to connect with them without Saro. The love that Nonna showed Tembi and Zoela was inspiring as well.
This book was the May pick for Reese Witherspoon's book club--and easily her best pick of 2019 so far. I'm so thankful to be following along with this book club, otherwise I may not have read this beautiful book!