I was adopted as an infant, as was my sister. Other than the occasional wondering what my birth family is like – and the realization that my kids are my only known biological relatives – I’ve never had the desire to search out my origins. I know some basics, such as my nationalities, but in order to learn more details a court order is required and I’ve never had a real reason to go through the process. I was loved and nourished and while I didn’t tell many people I was adopted as a child, that was due more to shyness and aversion to the attention that the revelation inevitably brought on me.
In Susan Mallery’s new novel Already Home, former chef Jenna Stevens was also adopted as an infant. She too had a happy childhood and a close relationship with her parents, so when Serenity and Tom show up at her newly opened kitchen supply store and claim to be her birth parents, she’s understandably shocked. Her adoptive mom encourages her to get to know her hippie bio parents and while Jenna is reluctant at first she slowly grows closer to Serenity. But she can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right with Serenity and Tom.
In addition to dealing with the emotional ramifications of her new-found family, Jenna is also recovering from a contentious divorce – her ex was unfaithful and also managed to squash her cooking creativity – and trying to figure out how to run the store, which she purchased on a whim. She hires a woman named Violet to help her out and finds a friend as well as a competent, energetic, creative colleague. After a less than stellar opening they revamp the store, adding cooking classes and ingredients that are ready to purchase so customers can easily make a healthy and delicious meal. Scattered throughout the book are dishes and treats that sound amazing and easy to make. I would have liked to see actual recipes for some of the things that Jenna whips up.
Jenna comes along way during the course of the novel. She learns a lot about herself and her relationships, regaining her confidence in her cooking and trusting her instincts. She stops bristling at the reference to Serenity as her mother, agrees to go on a date with a man Serenity introduced her to and even starts experimenting with vegan recipes.
Mallery is known for her romance novels but Already Home is a departure from that genre, falling into the contemporary women’s fiction category. The story is told mostly from Jenna’s point of view, but also follows Violet and Beth, Jenna’s birth mom. While I enjoyed the women’s perspective I felt the male characters – specifically the fathers – were too one-dimensional. We barely get to know Tom or Marshall, Jenna’s birth and adoptive fathers, respectively, although it’s apparent Jenna is close to her adoptive father.
Already Home is the perfect character-driven novel with just enough plot to keep the story going. I recommend having a snack before sitting down with this book because it will make you hungry.
Nancy is happy she married a man who loves to cook. She writes about her 2 boys and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys.