Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy (audio)

★ 1/2
"We all tell little lies about ourselves, our past, our presents.  We think some of them are minuscule, unimportant.  And other, large and incriminating.  But they are the same.  Only God has enough of the story to judge our souls." Summary: "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 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, and she sits down with the owner of Elsie's German Bakery for what she expects will be an easy interview. But Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story--a story that resonates with her own turbulent past. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of that last bleak year of WWII. As the two women's lives become intertwined, both are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive."

I been a bit behind on updating my book blog after I finish a book so bare with me regarding the "borrowed" summaries.  Work, library school, and wedding planning have kept be a little busy lately.  Not too much time for reading, but my hour-long commute and gym time have left a lot of time for listening to audio books.  I was able to finish this one in less than three days :)
I've always been really into historical fiction novels of World War II - especially involving the holocaust - and I'm always amazed when I learn something new.  With this book, it was the Lebensborn Program that Elsie's sister Hazel was involved in.  This was a program in Germany during the Nazi occupation that implemented the intentional raising of "Aryan" children.  I googled lots of information about the program while I was reading the book and was horrified by the anonymous births and the "doing away" with children that did not meet their criteria.  I am always interested in learning about the "German" side of the holocaust as well and this was another example of how the people of the Nazi reign suffered during the war as well.

Anyways, back to the novel...

Being a huge fan of historical fiction, I of course, loved Elsie's story from the very beginning, but I found myself very much enjoying Reba and Riki's story as well.  The author did a wonderful job of bringing out contemporary issues that were relevant to the Nazi ruling - both with Reba's father as a Vietnam veteran suffering from PSD and with Riki's work with the U.S. Border Patrol and Mexican immigrants.  Throughout the novel Elsie demonstrates a hidden strength and a great love for her family amidst many obstacles.  This is a book about family, friendship, and forgiveness.  I have to admit I tend to be a sucker for novels that are "wrapped up like packages" by the last page, but the ending was perfect!

I also really enjoyed the aspect of growing up in a bakery that was seen both in Germany during the war and in the present-day United States.  The epilogue includes lots of recipes - great ideas for a future book club meeting!


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