Book Review: “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home” by Tembi Locke

Hello everyone! Can you believe it’s already been a year since we’ve been in lockdown? I’ve definitely been feeling the weight of it lately, and I’m really looking forward to being together with friends and family again. On the bright side, I have been able to make more time for reading since I’ve been home more! So that’s been a small sliver of light in all this darkness.

Today I’m reviewing “From Scratch” by Tembi Locke, and WOW! It’s easily one of my favorites that I’ve so far read this year, and it’s likely to make my “Top Books of 2021” list! It was so emotional and powerful, and one that I’m still thinking about several weeks after finishing it.

Spoiler-Free Review: “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home” is a memoir that follows Tembi Locke as she finds a once-in-a-lifetime love, a family, and herself; and then loses the love that changed her world forever. However, in all that loss and grief, she manages to find hope, family, and a home. With lyrical writing; sensual descriptions of Italian food; and a powerful love story that transcends barriers of language, culture, and more; readers can’t help but feel everything with Tembi as she guides us through her journey. A moving, beautiful story that many will connect with, I highly recommend this memoir.

Below you will find a more thorough review containing my thoughts about the book. If you’re wanting to avoid any spoilers, you are welcome to jump to the TL;DR summary at the bottom of the page if you’d prefer!

“From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home” by Tembi Locke
From Scratch | Book by Tembi Locke | Official Publisher Page | Simon &  Schuster
  • Year of Publication: 2019
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Summary:

A poignant and transporting cross-cultural love story set against the lush backdrop of the Sicilian countryside, where one woman discovers the healing powers of food, family, and unexpected grace in her darkest hour.

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.

TRIGGER WARNING: Death of a loved one. Racism. Cancer. Hospice. Grief.

Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Tembi Locke)

Themes: Light can always be found in the darkness. Love endures. Home is where the heart is. The healing power of food. The joy of travel. Fight for the people you love.

Character Development: Since this is nonfiction, there aren’t any characters. That being said, I felt that the people in this novel were well-developed in a narrative sense. I felt like I really knew them and understood what they were going through. The connection I felt with the people in the story was part of what made this memoir so powerful.

Plot/Pacing: Again, since this is nonfiction, there is no plot. It’s just life! I thought the novel was paced really well as it progressed through each summer spent in Sicily. I was engaged the entire time and kept wanting to know more about Tembi, Saro, and Zoela’s journey.

Writing Style: I thought the writing of this novel was so lyrical and beautiful. I loved the almost-sensual descriptions of Italian food and cooking, and the ways she described the ups and downs of grief. I also love the Italian words and phrases that were mixed in. It’s a beautiful language, and it really helped to immerse me in her story.

Something else that’s important to note about the writing style is that the story isn’t told 100% chronologically. The overall structure moves from her study-abroad trip in Italy and then through the three summers she spends in Sicily. However, throughout the story there are many flashbacks to moments throughout her love story with Saro. I enjoyed that these were spread out and given time to develop; somehow the juxtaposition of chapters about grief and chapters about love just made sense. Her grief and her love story aren’t meant to be a surprise or for shock value, so I liked that we got to take our time with both in this narrative. I think the juxtaposition was so powerful because we see that love can be interspersed with even the most intense moments of grief, as is often true in life.

“Bingeability”: Moderate. I really didn’t want to “put it down” (can you put down audiobooks?) at times, but there were times when it made me cry and I just needed to take a break for my own emotional wellbeing.

Emotional Investment: High. I was so invested in her story and her family; I really felt for them and was sad when the book was over.

Windows and Mirrors: Italy. Grief. Racism. Travel. Adoption. Motherhood. Intercultural relationships. Multilingualism. Cooking. Acting.

Overall Thoughts: I just really loved this memoir. It’s a beautiful story and is beautifully written. It is a little heavy since it’s about grief, but it’s also so full of love and maintains a really uplifting and hopeful tone. I appreciate that both the love and the grief are present throughout, as will likely be the case as life continues for this family. Life goes on and we manage to find meaning and happiness, but that feeling of loss never fully goes away, and that’s okay! I love how even though she’s gone through such a tremendous loss, she can also acknowledge how much she’s gained. She connects with her Italian in-laws and finds a new place to call home that will ensure that she is forever connected to her beloved Saro. It’s just a beautiful story that I know I will stay with me for a long time.

Recommendation: Yes, I absolutely recommend this book. Please do pay attention to the trigger warnings though, as there are some sensitive topics. However, if you feel these are themes you can handle in books, then please check this one out! And I highly recommend the audiobook format as well.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

TL;DR:
Year of Publication: 2019
Genre: Memoir
Summary: A poignant and transporting cross-cultural love story set against the lush backdrop of the Sicilian countryside, where one woman discovers the healing powers of food, family, and unexpected grace in her darkest hour.
TW: Death of a loved one. Racism. Cancer. Hospice. Grief.
Themes: Hope. Love. Home. Food. Travel.
Character Development: No characters since it’s nonfiction, but felt very connected to the people in the story.
Plot/Pacing:
Again, no plot since it’s nonfiction and life doesn’t follow a set plot structure. But the pacing was perfect.
“Bingeability”:
Moderate.
Emotional Investment:
High.
Windows and Mirrors:
Italy. Grief. Racism. Travel. Adoption. Motherhood. Intercultural relationships. Multilingualism. Cooking. Acting.
Overall Thoughts:
A beautiful portrayal of love and loss.
Recommendation: Yes
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!

5 thoughts on “Book Review: “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home” by Tembi Locke

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