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Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Baker's Daughter - Sarah McCoy

Released January 24, 2012

Sarah McCoy
Crown Publishing Group

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Simply put, The Baker's Daughter is one of the warmest, most emotional books I've read in months. I cried, laughed, and really just couldn't put it down. Elsie as a senior cracked me up more than once, but Elsie as a teenager, well the things she endured just broke my heart.

In 1945, Germany is at war and most people know what happened to the Jews. Teenager Elsie Schmidt helps her parents run their bakery, while her older sister left to have her son and become part of the Lebensborn Program. Connected to her sister by only letters that come sporadically, Elsie finds herself growing more and more concerned by Germany's actions. Especially after she witnesses the cruel treatment of a young Jewish boy during a Christmas party. Eventually, she ends up hiding the boy and hopes her actions will not lead to her family's ruin.

In present day, journalist Reba Adams is trying to interview Elsie, owner of a German bakery, for a Christmas-themed article. Reba is engaged to a border patrol officer in El Paso, but doubt clouds her view of a happily ever after. When Elsie asks her why she wears her engagement ring on a chain around her neck, Reba finds herself sharing her story with the elderly woman. Meanwhile, Reba's questions take Elsie back to a time that changed her life forever.

The Baker's Daughter switches back and forth from Reba's life in the present day, Elsie's life during WWII and even Reba's fiance's experiences working with Mexican illegals. Connecting the treatment of illegals with the treatment of Jews was unexpected, yet quite clear and thought-provoking.

Elsie quickly became one of my favorite characters of all times. Her interactions with the Internet cracked me up. That laughter was necessary at times because the trips to 1940s Germany could be very heavy and emotionally draining. I realize I can't even begin to understand the terror that everyone felt, and I'm glad I never had to.

In the end, I'm so glad I read The Baker's Daughter. I think it would be an excellent choice for book discussion groups, and if they ever make it into a movie, I'll be first in line to see it.

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