Review: The Baker’s Daughter

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Baker’s DaughterThe Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy
Published by Crown on January 24, 2012
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

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.

The Baker’s Daughter was not what I expected it to be, not really at all. For one thing, I thought the story would focus on Elsie, which, if you consider the main character the person who most of the pages are focused on, she would be. Really, though, the tale seems to be more about Elsie’s affect on others, as viewed through the lens of Reba.

This device works incredibly powerfully. Elsie had a great impact on many lives, but, by using Reba as the frame story, McCoy is able to bring in additional themes and commentaries in a natural manner. The story could have been told from the perspective of Tobias just as easily, but I think something would ultimately have been lost. By incorporating Reba into the tale, McCoy is able to draw connections between Nazi Germany, the Vietnam War and the border wars between the U.S. and Mexico.

McCoy tells the story primarily using an omniscient narrator, who follows along with the perspective of one character at a time, but there are also epistolary sections. With this combination of formats, the reader follows along with a handful of characters. What makes this so impressive is that every character was likable, though flawed–especially Reba. They all had unique voices and interesting tales to tell.

The Baker’s Daughter left me feeling full of hope and inspiration. McCoy’s is a message of hope and the triumph of the human spirit over tragedy, so long as you face up to your fears. I suggest reading prepared; if you don’t have any fresh bread or cake from a bakery, you are going to be super hungry!

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