Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REVIEW: The Baker's Daughter, by Sarah McCoy

The Baker's Daughter, by Sarah McCoy. Published 2012 by Crown.

If you read and enjoyed Sarah's Key and/or The Book Thief, you will find yourself on very familiar ground with Sarah McCoy's second novel, The Baker's Daughter. Set alternately in World War 2-era Germany and present-day El Paso, The Baker's Daughter tells the story of two women and their search for love and independence and happiness.

In the past-tense story, teenage Elsie Schmidt, the daughter of a baker, is a loyal German engaged to Josef, an older Nazi officer she hardly loves. But her family needs the engagement for the family's protection; in the Germany of the Nazi era, loyalty to the Reich is everything and even the appearance that one is questions the Reich is enough to bring an entire family under suspicion. Josef can shield them from scrutiny, but Elsie does start to question the Reich, and she has a secret.

In the present-tense, Reba is a reporter engaged to Riki, a border agent; she's interviewing Jane, Elsie's daughter and the proprietress of her own German bakery, about German Christmas customs. Along the way she hears Elsie's incredible story. Reba's relationship with Riki is troubled and uncertain; she wears his engagement ring on a chain around her neck but won't commit to marriage- yet. Then, she receives a great job offer at a paper in San Francisco. It's a big career move, but will that city's organic-food restaurants and wine country feel like home the way Texas does? In the mean time, Elsie takes ill and Jane makes a surprise decision.

The Baker's Daughter is going to be a natural choice for book clubs. Elsie and Reba both find themselves at difficult crossroads at different points in the novel and each must make heartbreaking choices. McCoy raises questions about loyalty and rebellion and brings in the issue of immigration alongside the Nazi persecution of the Jews, bringing up lots of ideas ripe for discussion. She's also written a very solid, enjoyable novel about two fresh and interesting women. I wasn't crazy about the past-present structure of Sarah's Key but I think McCoy does a really good job of investing both stories with urgency and feeling. She certainly kept me turning the pages!  I'd recommend The Baker's Daughter to readers looking for an engaging page-turner with winning characters at its center and lots to talk about to boot.

And there are even recipes at the back of the book! Yum!

Rating: BACKLIST

The Baker's Daughter
by Sarah Mccoy
Powells.com
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the author.

14 comments:

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Book groups are going to eat this book up -- especially with those recipes in the back of the book. They add the perfect atmosphere for a discussion (yum!).

caite said...

so many good reviews of this one..but I always like to be the last person to read this big hits. lol

Zibilee said...

It does seen as if this one is universally loved, and I am planning on mentioning this one to my book club when we next meet. I am glad that it kept you invested, and was really glad to see your positive review on this book. I bet I would enjoy it.

Audra said...

I totally agree that this would be a smashing book club selection -- I thought McCoy did a great job of balancing history and current events in a way that wasn't overly simplistic or bland -- there was real meat behind the characters and their motivations.

Serena said...

I cannot wait to read this one and meeting Sarah has made me want to read it even more.

bermudaonion said...

I love Sarah McCoy so I bought this a few weeks ago but haven't had a chance to read it yet. I'm glad everyone's loving it so much - I can't wait to read it!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I swear to you, half of my reader today has something about Sarah. And deservedly so. I loved this book. (I'm wondering if Heather is talking about pitching it to the book club that I'm in? I'm hoping so.)

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Not sure I'll like it but who knows, I've read and loved some books I thought I wouldn't. It's all in the read.

JoAnn said...

I think my book club would love this, but we'll have to wait for the paperback. Recipes are always a plus!

Harvee said...

Sounds like two good stories,in two different times and countries, but it seems it was a bit of a stretch to connect them.

bookspersonally said...

Sounds like a nice story - love a well-done "past meets present" novel.

Kathleen said...

I loved The Book Thief and thought Sarah's Key was okay so I think this book would be right up my alley.

Care said...

This author's name was all over twitter the other day! so now I know why.

Anna said...

I loved this book! I agree that McCoy did a better job in handling the past/present storylines than Sarah's Key.