Since Steffy was 3, she and her sister, Nina, have lived with Auntie Gina. All that changes when their aunt decides to move in with her boyfriend, and Steffy’s dad, a musician she scarcely knows, comes for dinner. Steffy makes homemade pasta and draws a name tag for the stranger who’s about to take Auntie Gina’s place in the bedroom down the hall.
Steffy is a budding chef, and cooking is how she frames her life and makes sense of things. Through cooking, she tries to reconnect with her mother, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident and has to be re-introduced to her daughters each Sunday when they visit. Steffy’s only connection to her mom is the old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook filled with handwritten notes. She carries homemade favorites to her mother’s long-term care facility, fixes the family meals and even enters a cooking contest.
Steffy and Nina want to get close to their dad, but he’s unapproachable. When Steffy does some sleuthing in the church basement where he attends meetings, she hears his secret. Her dad’s an alcoholic, and he’s struggling to get better for his wife and his girls.
Jen Nails draws in readers with a disarmingly simple style. As the story builds, the characters take on more depth. One Hundred Spaghetti Strings shines with nuance and simplicity.
Billie B. Little is the Founding Director of Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, a hands-on museum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.