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Already Home- Book Review

May 8, 2011

Already Home

Susan Mallery

358 pages

Review copy sent by Eric of Planned TV Arts. Thanks, Eric!

Usually, I’m wary of a book that sounds like “chick lit,” all about relationships and sadness and true love (or the lack, and aftermath, thereof.) The exception is when it involves some kind of foodie element. Then, I can’t get enough, and will probably stay up far too late reading it, and wish I could meet (and eat with) at least one of the characters.

That’s what happened with Already Home. After divorcing her chef husband, Jenna moves back home. When she was a sous chef, her ex did a number on her psyche, putting her and her cooking down, wrecking her confidence in her creative abilities. Despite having no retail experience, Jenna decides to open a cooking supply store. Enter Violet, a punky looking young woman with lots of retail experience, coming from a troubled family life that makes her envy Jenna’s close family ties to her adoptive parents.

Just when the cooking store is starting to look like a success, Jenna’s worldview takes another direct hit. Her birth parents, two aging hippies, have come to find her, wanting to get involved in her life.

I enjoyed this story because of the interesting and yummy food descriptions, of course. Jenna’s creative thing as a cook is fusion cuisine, blending flavors in interesting ways. I wish it included more recipes. (There’s one for Jenna’s Mocha Chili, as a suggestion for a book group. But there’s also an enchilada dish that gets mentioned, and some kind of smoky-flavored tomato soup, I’m intrigued.)

Jenna’s return to confidence and cooking resonated for me as well. In the aftermath of her heartbreak, Jenna’s love for cooking got stripped away, her confidence in improvising flavors utterly shattered. While nothing as dramatic as her emotionally abusive ex has ever happened to me, I’ve noticed how tied cooking confidence can be to my emotional state. Maybe I should sign up for a cooking class.

Apart from the foodie element, I like that this novel tackled complex family relationships, and seemed to do it well.  The author stays true to sorting out the complexities that come up for Jenna, her adoptive mother and her birth mother.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the way the romantic elements played out. A little bit contrived, maybe, or maybe that’s me being grumpy and cynical about a genre requirement. (Or envious?)

Given how much I enjoyed the characters, and the food writing, I’m probably going to put this on the bookshelf next to Comfort Food and The School of Essential Ingredients. Possibly, on a reread, I’ll have a different reaction to how the romantic elements played out.

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