Title: The Baker’s Daughter
Author: Sarah McCoy
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reba Adams isn’t completely content with her life in El Paso, Texas, but she doesn’t really know why. She’s engaged to Riki, a good man who loves her, but she can’t bring herself to put his ring on her finger. In search of a feel-good Christmas piece for a local magazine, Reba visits a German bakery where she meets the owner, Elsie. Reba’s questions about Christmases in Germany are innocent, but they provoke a whole host of memories in Elsie, memories about Nazis and the war that she’d prefer to keep buried.
The story of The Baker’s Daughter is a unique one, to be sure. It’s true that books that jump between time and place have become increasingly common, and Nazi Germany seems to be a popular time period about which to write. But what sets this novel apart from the others is the present-day storyline – that of Reba, Riki, and how Elsie’s story affects them both. Too often, emphasis is placed on the past, and the present is neglected. The main character becomes merely a vehicle to tell a story, rather than a fleshed out, three dimensional person. That’s not a problem at all with this book, however; Reba jumps off the page, full of life and personality, and she holds the reader’s attention closely from beginning to end.
Riki is a U.S. Border Patrol agent, and this adds a certain color to the novel. He is becoming disillusioned with his job. He sees so many tragic events and difficult circumstances on a daily basis; he doesn’t know how to help the people he is surrounded by, but he is starting to think that sending them back to the horrible circumstances from which they were trying to escape isn’t the answer. This really gave the novel some depth and tied it firmly to the present day. Through Riki and the modern-day issues he must face, McCoy made The Baker’s Daughter relevant in both the present and the past.
The past is just as vividly described as the present in The Baker’s Daughter. Readers will be able to feel the close atmosphere of Nazi Germany, as Elsie and her family live in fear. Everything they do or say could be monitored; Elsie’s only outlet is her letters with her sister, a member of the Lebensborn program. Through this little detail, McCoy reveals the extent of research she undertook for this novel. It’s a little-known fact that the Nazis basically paired off their vision of ideal men with women, trying to create the true master race with their offspring. It’s incredibly disturbing, but very well depicted.
Though The Baker’s Daughter is a novel that deals with heavy issues, it isn’t a difficult or weighty. McCoy’s prose flows smoothly, and the book as a whole is happily an easy one to read. The issues it tackles, combined with the vibrant, sympathetic characters, make it an excellent choice for book clubs. Readers will be itching to discuss the events of the novel with others, and perhaps the delectable food descriptions and recipes in the book will inspire a book club feast.