Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

5 Star

In 1945, Elsie Schmidt is a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she is for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.

Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiancĂ©, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines are often blurred.

Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.

Lydia - 5 Star

The Baker's Daughter is riveting and haunting and I loved every word. A story of family, love and choices, this novel alternates between a vivid portrayal of World War II via Elsie as she comes of age during the war and Reba in the present day whose own traumatic life events have shaken her. As the two lives intersect, this novel shows how the past can help heal the present - if we're willing to listen.

I LOVED Elsie.  She's spunky, fearless and feisty. The choices she makes aren't always perfect, but she makes the best of every situation. I adored her in the present day story and could picture my grandmother in her and absolutely loved that. Her dialogue with her daughter and Reba and made me laugh out loud several times which was fantastic. Each and every character felt like I could reach out and touch them and I wanted to wander into the bakery in Texas that felt so warm and full of life with wonderful women and wisdom.

I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of Lebensborn and this is yet another reason this story will stick with me forever.  I love novels that teach me something, and this did - more than once.

The differing views of the war between various characters really stood out for me and it was interesting to see the portrayal as not just generational differences. This novel isn't just a story about a woman coming of age during the war. There are social and political layers that span the novel as well.  And it's all very subtle, and when you stop to think about it all.  Wow.

When intuition cracks the solid foundation of loyalty - to your family, your religion, your country, your job - how would you react?  The Baker's Daughter examines how each character handles the shady line between loyalty and intuition and there are many different examples to be had from Reba's father, Riki, the soldiers in Elise's town and Elise herself. The fates of these characters showcase how ignoring intuition leads to despair and disaster while listening to it may just lead down road to redemption.

As if the story and characters and learning a few things along the way weren't enough, the prose and detail in this novel were outstanding. The mouth watering description of the baked goods themselves almost had me running off to a local bakery several times - but I didn't want to put the book down to go! For those more adventurous, there are recipes included. With just enough detail for vivid scenes, I constantly stopped abruptly to marvel over a phrase. Here's one particular gem that stood out:  "A star burst like a corn from its kernel."

I can't wait to get my hands on more from Sarah McCoy.

Thank you to Crown Publishing Group for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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  1. Wow! Great review! I admit that the premise made me think this story might be horribly depressing (I try to avoid such stories because I am highly empathic & generally can't cope with the misery that unfolds on the pages), but you've made me reconsider. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Lucie! I'm so thrilled I've convinced you to reconsider! You'll have to let me know what you think if you take the plunge! I can relate to the high empathy, but this one really is subtle. Honest!



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