Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tembi Locke's "From Scratch"

Tembi Locke is an accomplished actor who has appeared in over forty television shows and films, including The Magicians, NCIS: LA, Animal Kingdom and Dumb and Dumber To. She is also a TEDx speaker. Her talk, What Forty Steps Taught Me About Love and Grief, traces her journey as a cancer caregiver. She is the creative voice behind The Kitchen Widow, a web series and grief support community that has received mentions in the New York Times and the Guardian. The author of From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, she lives in Los Angeles with her young daughter but can be found each summer on the island of Sicily.

Locke applied the “Page 99 Test” to From Scratch and reported the following:
Set largely on the mythical island of Sicily, From Scratch is a story of cross-cultural love, heart-wrenching loss, family, forgiveness, motherhood, and the table as a place to grow and renew. The memoir follows the first three summers I traveled with my young daughter to the rural village in Sicily that was my late chef-husband’s hometown. The idea was to spend time with my mother-in-law, who was also a widow and a woman with whom I had had a fractured beginning, and see if we could forge a new relationship in the wake of loss. And, I wanted my daughter not to lose more family than she already had. The emotional stakes were high, the geography challenging. However, over the course of each of those summers something unexpected emerged.

Page 99 falls at the beginning of the first summer in a chapter entitled, “Island of Stone.” There is a paragraph in the middle of the page that gets to one of the major questions of the book and the emotional underpinning driving the narrative.

The scene is simple. My seven-year-old daughter and I are on a plane about to land in Sicily for the first time without my husband. In fact, I am carrying his ashes onboard. The plan is to deplane then drive along the Mediterranean coastline for an hour before ascending into the foothills of the Madonie Mountains. I am severely jetlagged, bereft with grief, and my daughter is asleep on my lap carrying a grief more unpredictable than mine. I briefly consider deplaning, gathering our bags and heading back to my life in Los Angeles. Only that life is equally raw and feels structurally unsafe. So, I get off the plane and walk my daughter into the Sicilian sun. Somewhere inside, I am hoping the island and a town of family and near-family will help ease my way, make my daughter smile, or, at least, buy me a few weeks of repose.

The final sentence of paragraph speaks to the central idea that love can sometimes ask more of us than we know we are capable of. I’d say the paragraph “reveals the quality of the whole.” In part. You’ll have to read the book to learn more.
Visit Tembi Locke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue