From Scratch Book Summary, Themes & Synopsis by Tembi Locke

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TitleFrom Scratch
AuthorTembi Locke
Publication DateApril 30, 2019
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Number of Pages352 pages
ThemesLove, Loss, Grief, Healing, Family, Identity, Culture, Food
SettingThe book is set in various locations, including Los Angeles, Sicily and Nigeria.
Point of ViewThe book is written in the first person from Tembi Locke’s perspective.
Writing StyleThe writing style is honest, heartfelt and poetic with vivid descriptions of food and settings. The narrative is non-linear, with flashbacks and jumps in time, reflecting the author’s emotional journey.
Awards and HonorsThe book was a New York Times Bestseller and was named a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick.
ReviewsThe book received positive reviews from critics and readers alike, with praise for its emotional depth, vivid writing, and inspiring message.

From Scratch Themes

Grief and loss – The author shares her personal experience of losing her husband, Saro, to cancer and the emotional journey she underwent while grieving.

Love and relationships – The author also discusses her relationship with her spouse and the difficulties they had as an interracial marriage.

Identity and belonging – The author looks into her identity as a Black woman and her experiences as an outsider in Italy.

Culture and tradition – The book also explores the importance of food and cooking in the author’s family and how it connects her to cultural heritage.

Resilience and healing – Throughout her journey of sorrow and loss, the author learns to cope with her anguish and discovers methods to heal and go on.

Family – The book emphasizes the value of family and the role it plays in assisting individuals during tough times.

From Scratch Characters

“From Scratch” by Tembi Locke is a memoir, and the main characters are:

Tembi Locke – The author and narrator of the book. She is an American actress, writer and producer. The story is based on her experiences of love, loss and grief.

Saro – Tembi’s husband and the love of her life. He was an Italian chef and taught her about food and culture. He died due to cancer at the age of 41.

Zoela – Saro’s mother and a central figure in the book. She is a traditional Sicilian woman who does not approve of Saro’s relationship with Tembi at first. However, she gradually grows to love her and becomes an important source of support after Saro’s death.

Pino – Saro’s father, a proud Sicilian man who struggles to come to terms with Saro’s illness and death.

Giulia – Saro’s daughter from a previous marriage. She is a teenager when Tembi first meets her and becomes an important part of their family.

Tembi’s family – Her parents and siblings, who live in Los Angeles. They provide a different perspective on life and relationships compared to Saro’s family.

Tembi’s friends – She has a close group of friends who offer emotional support throughout her journey.

From Scratch Summary

The Prologue takes set in an olive orchard near Saro’s hometown of Aliminusa, Sicily. Tembi reflects on her time with Saro and carries out his dying wish to have his ashes sprinkled in Sicily. Tembi, who is grieving, wonders how she & Zoela, the daughter she & Saro adopted 7 years ago, would survive without him.

Part one, “Before,” jumps about in time to explain Tembi’s life with Saro & her first summer in Aliminusa after his demise. Tembi & Saro were in a loving relationship while Tembi was a foreign exchange scholar in Florence, as told in Chapter 1. Saro, a handsome and accomplished chef, won Tembi over with his kindness, attention to detail, and most importantly, his cooking. They married despite his parents’ objections and settled in the United States.

The second chapter begins just seven days after Saro’s demise from cancer, before moving back to his diagnosis, several years of therapy, & demise in his and Tembi’s Los Angeles home. Tembi is heartbroken following Saro’s death, but she fights through her sadness for Zoela’s sake. Several days later, she finds solace in recreating Saro’s first dinner for her: risotto with sugo green. 

Another flashback is presented in Chapter 3, this time focused on Saro’s conflict with his parents, Croce & Giuseppe. Saro’s parents abandoned him when he married Tembi because they were highly opposed to intercultural unions. Despite their grief at the separation, Tembi & Saro celebrated their marriage at a villa in Florence with friends & their loved ones.

Part 2, “First Summer,” follows Tembi & Zoela on a month-long trip to Sicily following Saro’s death to visit Croce, Saro’s mother, who is also a widow. Tembi & Zoela arrive in Aliminusa with Saro’s ashes and attend a Sicilian wake and sorrow. In Chapter 4 Tembi and Croce attend Saro’s burial before burying some of his ashes at a cemetery the next day.

Tembi and Saro’s journey to fatherhood is revisited in Chapter 5. Tembi and Saro decided to adopt while Saro’s cancer was in remission after years of attempting to conceive. They adopted a baby girl named Zoela, who transformed their lives. Chapter 6 sends readers to Aliminusa in the future. Croce is back in her kitchen, just hours after burying Saro, making a supper of lentils & pasta, two comforting Sicilian mainstays she shares with Tembi and Zoela.

Saro’s reconciliation with his parents is described in Chapter 7, which took place in Sicily with the assistance of his sister, Franca. Tembi’s first summer in Aliminusa is revisited in Chapter 8, with a daytrip to Stromboli with Zoela. Zoela declares over lunch that she no longer wants to love her father because it is too difficult. Tembi is concerned that his presence in Sicily has reopened old scars. Tembi and Croce’s blossoming connection and deepening intimacy throughout the course of the summer are described in Chapter 9.

Part 3, “Second Summer,” follows Tembi and Zoela on their second voyage to Aliminusa. Tembi is preparing heirloom fava beans from Saro’s garden when Chapter 10 begins, only days before the first anniversary of Saro’s death. She serves the food to the gathering of friends and relatives to commemorate Saro’s life. The first encounter of Saro & Tembi’s parents is depicted in Chapter 11. Croce and Giuseppe travelled to the United States soon after learning their kid was ill, and the two families became friends over Southern soul cuisine.

Chapter 12 returns to Aliminusa, focusing on Tembi’s attempts to acclimatize Zoela to Sicilian society. She arranges for them to learn how to make ricotta with an area cheesemaker, which they both appreciate. Chapter 13 focuses on problems of race & belonging by presenting Aliminusa’s interim priest, a man from Burundi. Croce brightens as she shows Tembi and Zoela to the priest, highlighting the family’s increasing bond.

Tembi and Zoela’s day visits to Agrigento & Cefalù near the end of their 2nd summer in Aliminusa are the centrepiece of Chapter 14. The mixed audience in Cefalù stimulates Zoela’s interest, prompting a discussion about immigration, race & enslavement. Croce soon announces that she intends to offer her house to Tembi & Zoela. 

Chapter 15 describes the legal handover of Croce’s house to Tembi & Zoela, a gift that strengthens Tembi’s sense of belonging in Saro’s community.

Part 4, “Third Summer,” recounts Tembi & Zoela’s third month in Sicily. This section is organised chronologically & follows a single timeline. Tembi is still grieving but she is learning to handle her emotions & begins to think about what the future may bring for her.

Tembi is now accepted as a member of the community, boosting her sense of identity and ties to Saro’s origins. Tembi’s parents pay her a visit, bringing her 2 worlds, 2 families & 2 homes together. The book concludes with a collection of recipes handed down from Saro & Croce.

From Scratch Synopsis

Tembi Locke’s memoir “From Scratch” follows her through her experiences with love, loss and rehabilitation.

The narrative begins with Tembi’s love story with her Italian husband, Saro and their troubles in a culture that does not always accept their interracial marriage.

When Saro is diagnosed with cancer their lives are turned upside down. Tembi has spent years juggling her responsibilities as a mother, actress and caregiver.

Tembi and her daughter Zoela are bereaved and unable to move on following Saro’s death.

Tembi takes Zoela to Saro’s native country of Italy to mend, where they both find comfort and a new understanding of their relationship with Saro.

“From Scratch” is a touching and beautifully written book about the challenges of love, sorrow and the importance of family and culture.

About the Author-Tembi Locke

Full NameTembekile Tembi Locke
Date of Birth26 July 1970
Place of BirthHouston, Texas, United States
OccupationActress, writer and producer
Notable Works“From Scratch: A Memoir” (2019)
EducationBachelor’s degree in Italian studies

From Scratch FAQs

What is “From Scratch” about?

“From Scratch” is a memoir written by Tembi Locke about her life as a Black woman in America, her marriage to an Italian man and their journey through love, loss and grief.

Is From Scratch book a true story?

No, From Scratch is not a true story. It is a memoir written by Tembi Locke about her experiences with love, loss and healing after the death of her husband.

What inspired Tembi Locke to write “From Scratch”?

Tembi Locke wrote “From Scratch” as a tribute to her late husband, Saro, who passed away from cancer. The book is a memoir of their love story and their journey through grief.

What is the target audience for “From Scratch”?

The target audience for “From Scratch” is anyone who enjoys memoirs, stories about love and family and books about overcoming adversity.

What are some other books similar to “From Scratch”?

If you enjoyed “From Scratch,” you might also like “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion, “The Bright Hour” by Nina Riggs and “The Sound of Gravel” by Ruth Wariner.

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