Book Review Time: From Scratch

Tembi Locke presents a beautifully intimate portrait of love, loss, grief, and moving forward. From Scratch is a tribute to Locke’s late husband and the landscape, people, and cuisine that informed his life. This memoir provides a truthful depiction of the grieving process. And it explores the lasting effects of loss on those who are left behind. From Scratch illustrates with exquisite deft the various sides of grief. Its complexity. The pain that can rock you to the core, making it difficult to even move. Yet, conversely, it shows that heartbreak can be a catalyzing force. For example, when family and community come together to support and buoy a member who is struggling with feelings too difficult to fathom. And in the emotional strength that it takes to survive a profound loss, yet be willing to eventually open one’s self up to the joys of life again.

But it’s best to start at the beginning. Because this is ultimately a love story. Locke and her husband, Saro, had an epic romance. They met in Florence, Italy while Locke was studying abroad. The fireworks were immediate. And within a few years, they were married. But, not everything was wine and roses. Saro, a talented chef, was born and raised in Sicily. His parents held onto their Sicilian traditions and expectations with a firm grip. So, the idea of their only son marrying an African-American woman (which Locke happens to be) did not sit well. What ensued after their wedding, was years of sparse communication with Saro’s side of the family. It was not until Saro became ill with a rare form of cancer, that some of the old wounds were healed. The addition of their adopted daughter, Zoela, into the family fold provided another path toward reconciliation. But this re-established familial bond, by Locke’s description, was still very “tenuous.” She felt she would never be close with Saro’s family; never be truly accepted.

After 10 years of fighting cancer with Locke at his side as caregiver, Saro passed away. But before he died, Saro asked that Locke take some of his ashes to Sicily. This request leads Locke back to the island of Saro’s origins. In spite of her complicated history with the land and her in-laws, Locke begins to see Sicily in a whole new light. Locke’s exquisitely heartfelt documentation of the three summers she spent in Sicily with her daughter, after Saro’s death, presents yet another love story in this memoir. The love of the land and its people. In Sicily, she begins to immerse herself in the food, culture, and language. She opens herself up to experiences and connections that before seemed impossible. She explores the landscape. She allows herself to reminisce, as well as mourn for what will never be. But, what I found to be most poignant, is that Sicily seems to provide Locke with a better understanding of her late husband. Tembi Locke’s memoir tells of an enduring love, and how that same love, although tethered to pain and loss, can in time proffer a path to healing. From Scratch is a superb read. 

Added bonus: recipes for classic Sicilian dishes can be found in the back of the book.


2 thoughts on “Book Review Time: From Scratch

Would love to hear what you think, leave a reply

%d bloggers like this: