Olivia Tschetter has just successfully defended her doctoral dissertation when she learns her mother, Vivian, has died. Vivian was the only one who knew that Olivia was going to do her defense, and now she can’t tell her mother that she succeeded.
At home, not talking about her studies, but cooking up a storm—Olivia tries to cope with her grief. Her family suggests counseling to get her out of the house, so instead Olivia takes her sister Annie’s place at the local Meals on Wheels and becomes a part-time volunteer. Along the way, while delivering meals, she meets an old friend of Vivian’s. And along the way we get to know the rest of the family as well as the family secrets.
Susan Gilbert-Collins writes in a very erudite fashion as she leads us through Olivia’s story. She takes us inside Olivia’s mind—we read her thoughts as she’s thinking them—almost in stream-of-consciousness style. Olivia, obviously well-educated (she’s a Ph.D. after all even if her family doesn’t know), also loves cooking. We’re treated to some delicious recipes as Olivia works her way through her grief.
You will find Olivia’s story compelling. I enjoyed reading about the foibles of the people at Meals on Wheels and their clients. I could understand her thoughts and reluctance to deal with Vivian’s death. When my mom died, I had to change her room out immediately—to keep busy so I could survive my grief at her loss. Olivia finds being busy a solution too—keeping occupied with Meals on Wheels and with cooking.
Being inside a character’s head so deeply makes for a challenging, but rewarding, read. Four stars.
Susan Gilbert-Collins gave me a copy of Starting From Scratch in exchange for my candid review.