Today’s tour is for a story set in Germany during WWII…
About Sarah McCoy:
Sarah McCoy is the author of the novels The Baker’s Daughter (Crown) and The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico (Random House). The Baker’s Daughter is a 2012 Doubleday/Literary Guild Book Club selection and was praised as a “beautiful heart-breaking gem of a novel” by Tatiana de Rosnay and a “thoughtful reading experience indeed” by Chris Bohjalian. Sarah has taught writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She currently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas, where she is working on her next novel.
About The Baker’s Daughter:
In 1945, Elsie Schmidt was a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she was 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 fiancé, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines can often be 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.
The Baker’s Daughter is a story about a girl who grows up in wartime Germany, and the impact of the war on her family and her life. It is also the story of a woman who has to figure out what she really wants out of life – lucky as she is to have one that’s nowhere near as complicated as Elsie’s was.
When we meet Elsie and her family, her parents own a bakery where Elsie helps out and her sister Hazel is in the Lebensborn program where good German women are tasked with producing the next generation of genetically superior Aryans… They’re Germans, proud of it, and proud of how well their troops are doing in the war. There are losses, of course, Hazel’s fiance Peter being one of them, but life goes on.
Elsie’s life unrolls before us in alternating first-person narratives and letters to and from Hazel, describing the general sentiment’s change from pride to suspicion, revulsion, and shock. It’s a slow process, one where you’re cooked in the pot before you even realized the water was boiling. How could her own people do such unspeakably horribly things, to other Germans?
It’s hard not to like Elsie. She’s smart, sassy, and eventually comes to the realization that her government is neither moral nor right. But even as life gets more difficult as a result of the war, she makes the decision to shelter Tobias – knowing that they’re all dead if she’s caught.
Then we get to the present day, and Reba’s story. I didn’t like her at first – she’s running without knowing why or what from, and she’s not very nice to her fiancé. Then she thaws out a bit while talking to Elsie and her daughter Jean, and whaddaya know, she’s actually alright. A bit confused, maybe, but alright.
I loved The Baker’s Daughter. I rarely read books set during WWII, I tend to get depressed at the thought that humanity could do so much harm to itself. And I can honestly say I’ve never read WWII books set in Germany, probably because I didn’t want to chance liking any German in that time period. I own that hangup though, and I’m really glad I gave this one a chance. As much as I hate what the Germans did during WWII, The Baker’s Daughter reminds me that there were some very very upstanding Germans who did whatever they could to save lives – at the risk of their own.
Two thumbs up.
drey’s rating: Outstanding!
Have you read The Baker’s Daughter? What did you think? And if not, read on to win your very own copy!
Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Baker’s Daughter for you, if you live in the US or Canada. To enter, fill out the form below before September 13th. Good luck!