28 August 2012

Book Review: The Baker's Daughter

I recently read The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy, as part of the online book club From Left to Write.  As part of the book club, we write a post based on our experiences with it -sort of like using the book as a writing prompt.  I loved the book so much, i wanted to write a quick review as well :)

If you've not heard anything about this amazing novel, here is a quick synopsis  from the book jacket:

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 fiancé, 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.
I read the synopsis, I thought, "Sure, I'll give it a read". It came in the mail and languished on my bedside table for a week or so until one night, when I had trouble sleeping (ok, that's every night).  I decided to read a chapter or two, and before I knew it the clock said 2:00 AM, and I had just finished the book.  I only noticed the time because I had to reach for some tissues!  I try to never give spoilers, or delve too much into character development when I review a book, because (for me, at least) the fun of a book is discovering it for yourself.

I will say this: the book is moving and affecting.  I'm still thinking about it days later - the characters, and what they went through, and how it affected them.  I'm craving some of the baked goods from the bakery (and can't wait to try some of the recipes).  I'm wondering if my kids will be affected the way these adults were affected by their parents.

It is such a pleasant surprise when you pick up a book, not really having any expectations, and fall in love with it.  There's a compelling mix of past and present, love and angst, and good history (I'm a sucker for well-researched history) - Sarah McCoy is an excellent writer.  And she's NICE, too - I mentioned her in a tweet when I finished the book,  and not only was she kind enough to retweet it, she personally responded as well!  I'm off to find a copy of her other book, and eagerly await the publication of her next one.

I heartily recommend this book to everyone!  I am so glad this book came into my life - it's one I will definitely re-read.

Quick Facts:
Paperback: 304 pages 
Publisher: Broadway; Reprint edition (August 14, 2012)
Language: English 
ISBN-10: 0307460193 
ISBN-13: 978-0307460196
Author's Website: Sarah McCoy
On Twitter: @SarahMMcCoy

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