Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Baker's Daughter, by Sarah McCoy


Sarah McCoy
Crown Publishers
January 2012,
$23.00, Hardcover
304 pages, 978-0307460189.

In 1944, Elsie Schmidt accompanies a German officer to an official Nazi party given on Christmas Eve in Garmisch, Germany during World War II. Elsie, a baker’s daughter is a bundle of nerves yet lighthearted as her date, Herr Josef Hubb arrives. Many surprises greet Elsie at the party. She is accosted by drunk and vile officer with lascivious intentions. Fortunately she is saved when a young boy who had just finished singing for the Germans interrupts the crime. The boy’s name is Tobias, a Jew. Also during the evening Josef stuns Elsie with a marriage proposal and presents her with an exquisite engagement ring. Josef will have to wait for Elsie’s answer. She becomes suspicious and curious when she discovers some barely visible Hebrew letters nearly etched away on the inside band. She has heard stories about camps and confiscation of property, but would Josef be involved? Later in the evening she is surprised again when Tobias arrives at her back door, he has escaped. With no time to spare, Elsie decides to hide the boy, even though the risk of death at the hands of the ruthless Gestapo is chilling.

Reba Adams is a journalist for a local magazine in El Paso, Texas, in 2007. Her assignment is to research and write about ways various cultures celebrate Christmas. She attempts to interview the elderly woman who owns Elsie’s German Bakery with little success. Finally after meeting Elsie’s daughter Jane at the bakery, she is introduced to the feisty, outspoken, hard working Elsie. Ironically, Reba wears the engagement ring her boyfriend Riki gave her around her neck, still unable to commit to marriage. Riki works for the Border Patrol along the Texas/Mexican border, assigned to capture and return of illegal aliens.

Sarah McCoy has written and expansive, multi-generational family history that is intricately complex. The result is a deep and satisfying story that involves a clever strategy of interconnected lives. Many parallels between characters over time and place become apparent. The reader is pulled across the decades with this writer’s clever craft as you follow Elsie at age seventeen in 1944, to Elsie’s life in Texas at seventy-nine. Family secrets, courage, love and forgiveness are themes that resonate throughout this richly well written novel with boundless depth that will pull the reader forward.

On a personal note: I was a captive reader unable to put it down, reluctant to see this story end.
Thanks to the author for a welcomed legacy from Elsie’s bakery: a warm encore. This will be a top pick for Bookworm’s Dinner in 2012.

Wisteria Leigh
Sunday, April 1, 2012

Disclosure: This book was won in a giveaway through Read It Forward. Many thanks.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2012].