Simmer and Smoke is a well executed debut novel. The subtitle —A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice—gives an accurate description of the sentiment of the book.
The story follows the lives of Mallory and Shelby—women who live near Atlanta, Georgia. They have divergent economic and social status and challenge ineffectual feelings, failures and self-doubt as they strive toward their personal and professional goals.
The mother daughter relationship with the theme of ‘home’: what it is, what it means and what happens when one strays too far away from it—is explored throughout.
“Home is the place I can live with myself, without hating myself.” – Mallory Lakes
It took a while to feel connected to the characters—at first I identified more strongly with one—then switched to the other. Whenever I put the book down, it persistently called to be picked up again and again.
In many ways, Simmer and Smoke reminded me of the NY Times best seller, The Telling Room, by Michael Paterniti. Its pacing is indicative of the culture from which the story is told and it leaves one with a craving to search out the food that is described within the pages.
Fortunately for the curious reader / fan, Lampman’s culinary website – dinnerfeed.com — has hundreds of recipes to investigate and includes more of her expository writing.