Life From Scratch, by Melissa Ford

>> Friday, January 27, 2012

TITLE: Life From Scratch
AUTHOR: Melissa Ford

PAGES: 208
PUBLISHER: Bell Bridge Books

SETTING: Contemporary US (New York)
TYPE: Chick Lit

Her life's a mess. And so is her kitchen. Divorced, heartbroken and living in a lonely New York apartment with a tiny kitchen, Rachel Goldman realizes she doesn't even know how to cook the simplest meal for herself. Can learning to fry an egg help her understand where her life went wrong? She dives into the culinary basics. Then she launches a blog to vent her misery about life, love and her goal of an unburnt casserole.To her amazement, the blog's a hit. She becomes a minor celebrity. Next, a sexy Spaniard enters her life. Will her souffles stop falling? Will she finally forget about the husband she still loves? And how can she explain to her readers that she still hasn't learned how to cook up a happy life from scratch?
A few months earlier, Rachel Goldman took the wrenching decision of leaving her husband. Adam no longer was the man she had married. For the past years, he'd been so focused on his work that he didn't even see Rachel, and she couldn't stand being married but not really having a husband any longer.

Since she'd made a big change in her life already, Rachel decided to go one more step further and take a year off her job as graphic designer. That's how, as the book starts, she's engaged in learning to cook (reversing the influence of her hyper-successful mother, who believes that real women don't cook; they go out or order really nice takeaway), and blogging about it.

And it's that new past-time that leads her to new things in her life, from dating a sexy Spaniard to exploring the possibility of a new career and yes, finding herself.

I hesitated before writing those last two words, because though accurate, they might make the book sound like self-indulgent nonsense. It's not. Rachel is a really enjoyable character, not completely put together yet, after her divorce, but working on it, and doing a good job (temporary setbacks notwithstanding).

There were quite a few things I really liked here. First, there's a really nice portrayal of female friendship. Rachel and her friend Arianna have a really nice relationship, supportive and warm. And Arianna isn't just there to give Rachel someone to call and bare her feelings to: she's clearly got her own life and her own story, and we do get to see some of it here.

I also liked the whole cooking and blogging thing. It's not gimmicky like the project from Julie and Julia. Rachel is properly learning from scratch, as the per the title, and in the blog she shares her discoveries, her joy at discovering the creativity and satisfaction in cooking a good meal, as well as what's going on in her life. There are snippets of her blog entries at the beginning of each chapter, and I really liked reading them. I didn't think they were as absolutely amazing as others seem to in the book (always a danger, when you have a character writing something that's supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread), but they were fun, and I also liked the sense of a blogging community. It seemed different from the online romance community that I know and love, but still quite nice.

Finally, though this is chick lit, there is romance and there is a happy ending. I'm not going to say much about it, to avoid spoilers, but it was surprising, and yet a really good, satisfying ending.

MY GRADE: A solid, enjoyable B.


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