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Starting from Scratch: A Novel Paperback – August 3, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Especially the main character, Olivia, who at twenty-seven is the youngest sibling and still single. Olivia has always been close to her mother; sharing her love for cooking and confiding in her. Now she moves back home and quickly takes on the hostess role at family gatherings. Almost as if she is taking her mother's place, as if Vivian's mantle is settling on her daughter's shoulders.
It was fun to watch this story unfold! To observe the dynamics of the siblings and be reminded that familiar patterns from childhood are often still at play as adults. It was a treat to meet the people for whom Vivian, and later Olivia, made a difference. To discover the surprises and family secrets as they began to emerge. And to recognize Olivia moving within the spirit of her mother despite discombobulating sorrow - yet remaining uniquely herself.
This is a mother daughter story with many rich overtones and Susan Gilbert-Collins is adept at telling it. She transitions smoothly between background and immediate scenes. She embeds information so that a second reading is even more delightful than the first. The book's dialogue and banter feel ever so natural, and I loved Olivia's inner conversations! I enjoyed watching her come into her own. And, of course, there are the recipes! The food is everywhere and embellishes the book in many forms.
This is a study of grief and caring and moving on. Remembering and enfolding the beloved, yet facing the necessity of taking bold steps forward. Sometimes that means starting from scratch!
To my surprise, the book seems considerably stronger and far more intelligent than most novels described as chick lit. The author moves very close to literary fiction, except that the main characters are female and she includes recipes. As a sometime writer myself, I am blown away by the authors craftsmanship. She consistently follows the maxim to "Show, don't tell." For instance, early in the book she presents a funny story of how the family acquired their Siamese cat. This story tells us more about the family than dozens of pages of descriptive prose...and it's fun to read, too.
The Tschetter family is presented affectionately but not sentimentally. We view the world consistently through the eyes of Olivia, the youngest of four children, all raised in a small town in South Dakota. We get a sense of how each sibling has developed a strong personality. The author does a remarkable job of showing how the siblings relate as adults, drawn together by family obligation yet rubbing against each other the way family members do. The family isn't dysfunctional; mostly they love and respect each other. But like all families, they tend to talk about trivial things and they often drive each other mad.
Even more amazing, the author kept me hooked without much action. Perhaps the liveliest climactic scene comes at a family dinner, when a surprising announcement sets off some strong emotions. Olivia does discover some family secrets, but there's no hard-edged suspense.Read more ›
The process of navigating sudden loss, artfully explored by Gilbert-Collins, is for Olivia slow, uncertain, and even ironic at times. But like the complementary flavors in one of her own gourmet recipes, Olivia's experiences produce a surprising alchemy; as the weeks pass, memory flavored by immediacy, childhood habits blending into an adult identity, and personal pain seasoned with newfound compassion create for Olivia richer, if altered, relationships with those she loves. Gilbert-Collins tells this story with humor, insight, and a touch of suspense, and surrounds Olivia with excellent yet infuriating siblings who may well remind you of people you grew up with. Starting from Scratch is the best sort of treat: a novel with nuance and depth that's palatable too.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Deb’s Dozen: Olivia and her family, plus friends—consumed by grief, consoled by cooking.
Olivia Tschetter has just successfully defended her doctoral dissertation when... Read more
Interesting, and thoughtful, but not thought provoking.Published 13 months ago by L. P. C. Steinert
The story is good but like most novels today they have to put in all kinds of terrible things. I loved that it included recipes, I just wish she left out some of the dark stuff.Published 21 months ago by Nancy
It typically takes me a few days to read a book; a little longer if I'm busy with the kids, a little less if I can't put it down. Read morePublished on September 9, 2013 by applecor217
I have my mothers cookbooks and also my namesake's cookbooks. trying to fill the shoes of your mother is very hard to doPublished on April 19, 2013 by margaret gabriel
Nice local color in midwest college town. Interesting characters showing growth and humor. Looking forward to reading more by this author.Published on November 30, 2012 by Virginia Barzan
You realize what really is important in life and how you cope with loss. Family and close ties say it allPublished on October 16, 2012 by Rain
Olivia has just finished defending her doctoral dissertation, something only her mother knows she is doing, when she finds that her mother is in the hospital. Read morePublished on June 24, 2012 by Michelle Boytim