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The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

The Baker's Daughter

by Sarah McCoy

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4443423,573 (3.91)4

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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I really did like it, and could have even more if the author had been a bit more consistent with the time/place changes between present day TX and WW2 Europe. I loved the character Elsie, and loved that her story was brought into the present time, don't get me wrong. I just wish that there had been less flipping back and forth....would have made for a smoother read. An even better story. 3.5 STARS ( )
  lineells | Nov 30, 2017 |
The Baker’s Daughter caught my attention initially because of its tie to World War II. But if you are thinking the novel is just another story about a woman who must decide whether or not to shelter a Jewish person during the Holocaust, you’d be mistaken. Beneath the surface is a story about love, about family and about relationships. It’s about facing our demons—our pasts—our fears and our regrets. And about forgiveness—not only of others, but of ourselves.

I loved Elsie Schmidt from the beginning, from her innocence as a young woman to her wisdom and positive outlook on life as a much older one. She showed great courage and yet was also very human in terms of her vulnerability and thought processes. I would like to be more like her, truly. She seems to radiate wisdom and love, even despite the darker spots in her past.

Elsie’s sister Hazel’s story particularly interested me. I was not too familiar with the Lebensborn Program before having read the novel. The researcher in me was intrigued, however, and off I went to learn more. In an effort to promote and continue a “pure” race, the Lebensborn Program was designed to encourage "approved" young women and SS officers to procreate. Infants deemed acceptable were then placed in homes of SS officers to be raised. Those found to be unacceptable were disposed of. In Hazel’s case, she volunteered for the program after the father of her son was killed. Through her letters to her sister, the reader gets to know Hazel and her situation. It was heartbreaking to say the least.

I found Josef, friend to Elsie's family, to be a particularly diverse and interesting character. I really appreciated how the author portrayed his character and the way she wove his story into Elsie's. As an SS officer, he provided an interesting viewpoint. He wasn’t guiltless by any stretch in terms of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people during World War II; however, some of the choices he made, some of the doubts and regrets he had, made him seem more sympathetic—more human. It goes to show what a skilled writer Sarah McCoy is.

Of all the characters, I most identified with Reba. I didn’t always like the choices she made. She could be a little cold at times—or so it seemed. But that’s just the way she was. That was part of her defense. It’s easy as a reader to see the whole picture. The characters within the story often only know their own hearts and minds. In some ways, as I read, I felt like Sarah McCoy had gotten into my head and was holding up a mirror to me—“See?” She was saying, “I know you. I understand.” I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect time to read this book as I am coming to terms with my own past and the loss of my father. Reba’s and my lives are entirely different, of course. Still, I could relate to her in a lot of ways. I know what it is like to grow up with a parent who suffers from Depression and alcoholism. I know what it is like to move hundreds of miles to get away. I know what it is like to feel alone, to not trust anyone, and to be afraid to get close to anyone. I know what it is like to want to be someone else, sometimes trying to be someone else. I know what it is like to be depressed too.

Elsie’s story is not much different in some respects, only it is more about her own decisions, including how they impact her relationship with her family. She had such difficult choices to make, as did everyone in her family during a very trying time. In some ways, I could relate to her story as well, particularly in terms of her relationship with her father.

A subject I wasn’t quite expecting to pop up in the novel was the issue of immigration, in particular those crossing over the border from Mexico illegally. It makes sense, really, given Reba’s fiancé Riki’s job as a border patrol agent. Still, I hadn’t expected it to take a somewhat prominent role. I think it provided a good juxtaposition to Reba’s journey through the course of the book as well as with her relationship with Riki.

Sarah McCoy has taken several different elements and adeptly woven them together in The Baker’s Daughter. There are two seemingly very different stories, and yet they come together in such a way that makes it nearly impossible not to see the parallels and common themes. I took much away from this book and continue to think about it days--even weeks--after.

There wasn’t anything I did not like about The Baker’s Daughter, from the well-drawn characters to the various story lines, to the historical and present day aspects. This book offers a lot of food for thought (and recipes at the end!) as well as touched my heart. I had a similar experience reading The Baker’s Daughter as I did reading Ann-Marie MacDonald’s The Way the Crow Flies. Is it any wonder then that Sarah McCoy’s novel, The Baker’s Daughter, is not only my favorite so far this year, but also made my all-time favorite book list? ( )
  LiteraryFeline | Nov 25, 2017 |
It is novels such as this that need more than 5 stars to call them out to readers in all walks of life around the world.

It is a novel that has touched the depths of my soul. It is a novel that I shall remember long after closing the back cover on the last page.

There are many meaningful quotes within the novel and here are documented just a few:
https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/17534296-the-baker-s-daughter ( )
  Corduroy7 | Nov 16, 2017 |
very well told story with compelling, lovable characters. my only wish was that the Christmas story Reba wrote had been included in the story. I felt like Reba and Ellise had had meaningful conversations that us readers would have enjoyed. ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
I wanted so much to like this book, but think I was absolutely the wrong person to read it. My parents are both from Berlin and grew up during the last years of the war, so there were a lot of things that rankled that probably would not have bothered anyone else. For example, the Schmidt family in this story is Bavarian; as such, they wouldn't have called the rolls brotchen, that's a different breakfast roll made in northern Germany; it would've been Mutti & Vatti, not mutti und papa, the use of "Doch" and "Doch ja," both certainly German expressions everyone in my family uses, too, seemed weirdly placed and unnatural, etc. etc. Having grown up in a house where the shadow of World War II, though rarely mentioned aloud, still daily casts a long and ever-present shadow, the Schmidt family never rang true to me.

That being said, the second star is for a rarely seen reminder that every German was made a Nazi by default, not by choice, and many were people supporting their husbands, fathers and sons who were away at war. I loved that Elsie reminded Reba that you can support your country's soldiers without supporting the politics of the war they are fighting in. And what nation didn't/doesn't want to win a war its losing people in? The book also reminds the reader that those who resisted were shot or imprisoned. It's rare to see any World War II-era German be portrayed as a complex person attempting to survive a war and keep their family alive. Elsie's matter-of-fact response to Reba's initial surprise when Elsie openly admits attending a Nazi Weihnachten party was one of the better pieces of dialogue in the book (that then, unfortunately, petered out to nothing).

But then the author falls into the usual tropes: the overweight, moustachioed, smelly rapist Nazi and of course the only Nazi with a conscience (and, true to American form, there is of course *only* one) who is a protagonist. Everyone else is a blind fanatic or a hero secretly a part of the resistance, naturally.

I'm not saying there weren't blind fanatics and that those who smuggled Jews to freedom aren't heroes, obviously there were and they are, but honestly, the Nazis in this book often felt gratuitous. I half expected to hear one of them say, "Ve haf vays ov making you talk," while polishing a monocle. It was really disappointing because there was potential here for a complex, well-developed story of people clinging to humanity and each other in the face of losing a war that has already wrought so much devastation. Instead, Nazis of the silver screen era variety (think Strasser in "Casablanca") abound. Sigh.

The second star is for the inclusion of the Lebensborn program, which was clearly well-researched, mostly plausible and decently portrayed. And, well-woven into Elsie's story.

Similarly, in the modern storyline, the complexities and realities of illegal immigration here in the Southwest were pretty well done, though the subplot was predictable and too preachy-predictable for my taste.

But that's where the good parts end.

The modern-day storyline was even more infuriating than the World War II one, for similar reasons. I've also been a professional print reporter so the way Reba approaches stories (no background research, "push[ing] hard" for an "all-star quote" especially bothered me because it's exactly the kind of cartoonish portrayal of local reporting that makes people think reporters are just exploitative hacks. Most reporters work hard to tell other people's stories, not manipulate the subject into telling the story they want. I cringed every time Reba "worked" on a story.

And that's the third reason so much of this book felt like a slog. Between the pop-culture references and too much explaining and not enough showing, the narrative felt discordant against the genre and plot. The writing style was modern, light chick-lit but the premise historical fiction. It just didn't work. I actually checked the author's age and genre halfway through because I thought maybe I'd picked up a YA novel (which would've been fine, but obviously also would have changed my assessment of the book).

But again, I don't know how much of this review have been biased by my own knowledge and experience with the subject (though the writing style would be unappealing to me regardless). Still, this is the most honest review I can give. ( )
  Shutzie27 | Apr 11, 2016 |
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Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.  ---MARK TWAIN, "Following the Equator"
The light of heaven falls whole and white And is not shattered into dyes, The light for ever is morning light; The hills are verdured pasture-wise; The angel hosts with freshness go, And seek with laughter what to brave;--- And binding all is the hushed snow Of the far-distant breaking wave.

And from a cliff-top is proclaimed The gathering of the souls for birth, The trial by existence named, The obscuration upon earth, And the slant spirits trooping by In streams and cross- and counter-streams Can but give ear to that sweet cry For its suggestion of what dreams!  ---ROBERT FROST, "The Trial by Existence"
For Brian Zahlen bitte, mein Schatz. Ich liebe Dich.
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Long after the downstairs oven had cooled to the touch and the upstairs had grown warm with bodies cocooned in cotton sheets, she slipped her feet from beneath the thin coverlet and quietly made her way through the darkness, neglecting her slippers for fear that their clip might wake her sleeping husband.
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publié chez France Loisirs sous le titre "La bonne étoile d’Elsie"
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Book description
Reba Adams, a journalist in El Paso Texas, becomes intrigued with the story of Elsie Schmidt, an elderly Jewish baker who was in Germany during the war.
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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 in the dead of night 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. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she's been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiance, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines are often blurred. Reba's latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie's German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba's questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki's lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.… (more)

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