Warning: This review may contain spoilers for the book “Pasta Wars.”
Whether you’re looking for your own romantic getaway or something to keep you distracted this Valentine’s Day, Elisa Lorello’s delicious “Pasta Wars” is the book for you to binge read. It’s not by any means a typical romance novel and — although there is a considerable happy ending to the novel — it goes beyond the usual girl-and-guy get together. In fact, it’s more about a story of personal development than anything else.
Katie Cravens, the protagonist of the novel, is — nicely put: a complete trainwreck. Like a lot of people, she’s much too worried about what others think of her. She’s worried about what they say or may not say, how they look at her as a person and keeping herself in shape so people like her. When her carefully crafted life falls apart, she’s left with the startling realization that maybe she isn’t what she thought she was all along. Maybe she’s compromised on so much to maintain her image that she no longer has value for the simplest, most delightful things in life. She’s not entirely to blame for her mindset: there’s a history to how it developed, but she is guilty in some aspects.
A trip to Italy in efforts to save her tanking company results in Katie not only learning more about food, but herself, too from the Italian chef (and hunk), Luca Caramelli. He poses more than one challenge for Katie, perhaps the biggest being that he doesn’t immediately respect her. In fact, Luca is harsh with Katie in a way she hasn’t experienced before. He has a no-nonsense policy for anything fake, including Katie.
So her trip to Italy isn’t turning out to be a vacation at all. It’s more of a study abroad experience and the subject she’s studying is herself.
The rather rude wake-up call does her well though, and Katie has a daunting, beautiful comeback both personally and professionally. She trades in all the fake aspects of her lifestyle for something more authentic and pure.
This novel is not only a comeback story, but one that revolves around the second best thing in the world to love: food. The descriptions of the food, whether frozen in Katie’s kitchen or authentic in the heart of Italy is enough to make you want to get up and snack on something while reading. Overall, it’s an authentic story in terms of personal struggles, business problems and character thought process — and, of course, the food. It revolves around love, but different forms of it, like the love for the art of food and making it, romantic love (and its hardships) and the love of work. Most importantly it teaches that no other love can form until someone develops self love.
Although the sentiment is important and good, the novel does have its fair share of faults. Lorello’s vocabulary is a bit repetitive, to the point where I stopped to ask myself if I’d already read a certain page or line. The plot, much like Katie herself, tends to jerk the readers around a bit because it’s so all over the place. It is an incredibly slow burn as well, something I can usually appreciate because I am a fan of seeing developments between two people rather than the whole shebang up front, but in this case it gets to a point where the reader may become bored. It’s also riddled with a few cringe-worthy clichés as well (but, what romance novel isn’t?) Despite all these faults, there’s something captivating about the story that leaves readers unnerved, hooked and determined to finish it out. Maybe it’s because they’re rooting for Katie and her transformation despite how clueless and irritating she can be.
I would definitely recommend this book to readers, but it’s a three out of five stars for me. I don’t see it as being a book I will be rereading too often, but it does have a message that we don’t see in a lot of works today. Katie Cravens reminds us that love only enters your life when you allow it to — starting first and foremost with yourself.