#217 Batter matters
First published Dec. 10, 2017.
by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Victoria: Orca Books, 2017.
$9.95. / 9781459815025
Reviewed by Carol Anne Shaw
Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s From Scratch is a recent release from Orca Books’ Rapid Reads Program — a genre of short, high-interest novels penned by bestselling authors with the aim of helping adults to improve their literacy.
It is the story of a single mother, Eva (aka “Cookie), a hardworking woman who finds herself facing unemployment when the owner of the local bakery where she works is forced to sell.
Money is tight, and with a daughter in college and no promising job prospects in sight, protagonist Eva is understandably stressed. Factor in the frustrating, going-nowhere-chemistry she has been sharing with Murray, a regular customer to the bakery, for years, and Eva is feeling pretty hopeless about her future.
Sure, she dreams of taking over the bakery herself; she’s talented enough, and the little shop is the heartbeat of the small community where she lives. But Eva is a realist. She has no capital and no real entrepreneurial skills. It doesn’t matter how good her cookies are because money talks.
But when her daughter Katie convinces Eva to enrol in some college courses as a mature student, it isn’t long before her horizons begin to look a little brighter. Soon, what started as a pipe dream becomes something that just might be possible after all.
With Katie’s help and the support of her teacher and classmates, Eva rolls up her sleeves and starts “from scratch.” It’s overwhelming at first, but little by little, Eva learns what she needs to bring her dream to fruition. And with knowledge, comes power!
While From Scratch is written using simple language, the story is strong and the characters believable. Readers will immediately find themselves on Team Eva, and, alongside her, will learn just what it takes to start one’s own business.
From market research to a solid business plan, to a professional website and advertising, readers will discover how to tick all the boxes on a shoestring budget.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is the message of hope in this little book. As we follow the highs and lows of Eva’s challenging adventure, we come to understand how consistency and true passion are so often the sparks that bring a dream to life.
While the novel contains a romantic element, the story is never saccharine or overly sentimental. In fact, readers will relate to the very real but often awkward chemistry between Eva and Murray — I know I did! And while they are both quite vulnerable, each with their own insecurities and personal demons, they are also refreshingly honest and strong of character.
From Scratch is a quick and touching story of pride and perseverance, as well as a novel that offers a lot of practical information. Readers struggling with English as their second language will be drawn easily into this story about a woman who, with a little support, reaches her true potential while realizing a life long dream.
And finally, there is a wonderful recipe on the final page of From Scratch, for “Cookie’s Oatmeal Doily Cookies.” (Because, as we all know, you can never have too many cookies.)
Carol Anne Shaw is the author of the “Hannah” books, all from Ronsdale Press: Hannah & the Spindle Whorl (2010), Hannah & the Salish Sea (2013), and Hannah & the Wild Woods (2015). When not writing, Carol Anne can often be found painting at her easel or hiking the local trails that surround her home in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.
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