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The Baker's Daughter: A Novel [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Sarah McCoy
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Jan. 24 2012
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 fiancé, 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.

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“Replete with raw emotion and suspense, The Baker’s Daughter is a fascinating journey through a horrifying time in world history that will resonate long after you close the book.” –Historical Novel Society

"A beautiful, heart-breaking gem of a novel written just the way I like them, with the past coming back to haunt the present, endearing heroines and a sunny, hopeful ending. You'll wolf it up in one delicious gulp.”--Tatiana de Rosnay, international bestselling author of Sarah's Key and A Secret Kept
"The Baker's Daughter was a constant warm companion to me during cross-country travels, a novel I looked forward to returning to night after night.  The rare book in which the modern-day story is as compelling as the wartime tale it contains, The Baker's Daughter offers a look at Nazi Germany through the lens of the immigration issues of our own time.  El Paso, TX and Garmisch, Germany make for an unexpected harmony of flavors.”--Jenna Blum, international bestselling author of The Stormchasers and Those Who Save Us
“A sensitive, multilayered novel, this is a moving examination of the effect war and the politics of exclusion, have on the human heart."--Amanda HodgkinsonNew York Times bestselling author of 22 Brittania Road
“A haunting and beautiful story… Spanning sixty years, and taking on forms of human cruelty and indifference ranging from the Nazis to modern-day immigration reform, McCoy forces us to examine the choices we make. I was riveted from start to finish.”– J. Courtney SullivanNew York Times bestselling author of Commencement and Maine
"This is a beautifully told, richly detailed story that grabs your heart from page one and keeps its hold long after the last page. It is a book to discuss, to share and ultimately to savor."--Sarah Jio, author of The Violets of March
"Elsie Schmidt is the brave and unforgettable heroine of Sarah McCoy's beautifully written tale of family, friendship, and love. The Baker's Daughter demonstrates how the past can teach us--if only we will listen."--Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
"Sarah McCoy's The Baker's Daughter explores what happens when our loyalties (to country, cause, family, religion) clash with our intuition. A complex braiding of mystery, history, and personality, this novel is engaging and wonderful."--Sheri Reynolds, New York Times bestselling author of The Rapture of Canaan 

About the Author

SARAH McCOY is the New York Times bestselling author of the novel The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, McCoy spent her childhood in Germany. She currently lives with her husband in El Paso, Texas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, Riveting and Full of Hope Jan. 26 2012
By Lydia - Novel Escapes TOP 500 REVIEWER
The Baker's Daughter is riveting and haunting and I loved every word. A story of family, love and choices, this novel alternates between a vivid portrayal of World War II via Elsie as she comes of age during the war and Reba in the present day whose own traumatic life events have shaken her. As the two lives intersect, this novel shows how the past can help heal the present - if we're willing to listen.

I LOVED Elsie. She's spunky, fearless and feisty. The choices she makes aren't always perfect, but she makes the best of every situation. I adored her in the present day story and could picture my grandmother in her and absolutely loved that. Her dialogue with her daughter and Reba and made me laugh out loud several times which was fantastic. Each and every character felt like I could reach out and touch them and I wanted to wander into the bakery in Texas that felt so warm and full of life with wonderful women and wisdom.

I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of Lebensborn and this is yet another reason this story will stick with me forever. I love novels that teach me something, and this did - more than once.

The differing views of the war between various characters really stood out for me and it was interesting to see the portrayal as not just generational differences. This novel isn't just a story about a woman coming of age during the war. There are social and political layers that span the novel as well. And it's all very subtle, and when you stop to think about it all. Wow.

When intuition cracks the solid foundation of loyalty - to your family, your religion, your country, your job - how would you react?
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110 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that will stir your emotions and stay with you Jan. 24 2012
By AnitaGL - Published on
Elsie Schmidt is 16 years old and the youngest daughter of a baker in Garmisch Germany. The year is 1944 and the Third Reich and Hitler rule Germany. While war is everywhere Elsie and her family are kept safe by an older well connected soldier who has feelings for Elsie. Her older sister,Hazel, was engaged to another soldier and has a son from that relationship. She now lives and has children in the Lebensborn program, imagine a sanctioned place for sex to create a perfect Aryan nation, she has also had twins.
One Christmas Eve changes everything for Elsie. She went to the first adult party and dance of her life, and while she should have been enjoying her new dress and date, the evening was marred by the actions of a brutal Nazi officer. Elsie returned home very shaken up that night, an engagement ring on her finger, and she discovered a shocking surprise behind her home..........
In El Paso TX Reba Adams is a journalist searching a unique twist on a Christmas feature she's writing. The year is 2007. Her search for traditions around the world lead her to Elsie's German Bakery. Reba feels her own life is upside down. She's engaged to Riki, a border patrol officer, she's running from her own family past, and she's certain El Paso is not where she wants to settle. Reba finds much more than her story when she meets Elsie and her daughter Jane.

This book is really the story of Elsie and Reba, two young women, separated by 63 years, but facing similar life altering choices in their lives. I fell in love with Elsie immediately, her heart so pure, so honest and always thinking of her family and how each move she makes will impact them. She grows up so quickly, because of the war, because of her situation, and her childhood is over. She adores her parents, and she keeps their traditions and the art of baking close to her.
Loving Reba was only a little harder. Her young life wasn't easy, and she didn't have that strong family support system to lift her up. I think I wanted her to question her life with Riki less, but of course Sarah McCoy knows how to weave this story, and I should never have doubted her.

Trying to give a synopsis of this book is not easy, and yet I want to put it into my own words. Simply put this book is beautiful and heart breaking. The back and forth in the story is done so very well. I was excited to read each story, anxious to see how they would progress, and eventually intertwine. The historical research is accurate and so strikingly frightening. I must say this second novel far exceeded my expectations, I won't soon forget these characters and their story.
I've given this book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and if you love history, love stories, or a story of love over hate, this book will stir in your heart for a long time.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Enough of The Baker's Daughter March 9 2012
By P. Woodland - Published on
There is a strong story in this book, but there should have been two strong stories. Ms. McCoy intersects the lives of Elsie and her daughter Jane who own a bakery in El Paso, Texas, with reporter Reba and her sometime fiance Riki, a border patrol agent.

Elsie was a teenager during WWII. An ordinary German girl caught up in what were not ordinary times. She did not understand the politics of Hitler, she only knew what she was told at home. One night after coming home from her first ball with an officer of the Reich a young Jewish boy appears on her doorstep. Suddenly what she has been told about Jews conflicts with the starving child in front of her. How can this skinny boy be evil?

Elsie changes that night in many ways and those changes carry her forward through the war and into her new life in America. She always remains a baker though, finding comfort and power in the ritual and constancy of flour and yeast.

Reba grew up in a household with a father forever changed by his experiences in war. He came back unable to deal with life and created an abusive environment in the house. Her sister ignored it and escaped, her mother just dealt with it but nobody talked about it leaving Reba unable to form a lasting relationship with any man; including the man she said she would marry, Riki. Riki, a legal Hispanic man is very conflicted about the illegal aliens and had found his work with the Border Patrol fulfilling until a young boy is accidentally killed. He starts rethinking his priorities as Reba calls off the engagement and moves away.

Elsie's story was definitely more compelling than Reba's. It had much more depth and was told with more attention to detail than Reba's. It was almost as if Reba's was a filled in afterthought. She was not very likable as a character and I just couldn't feel much for her one way or the other. I truly didn't care. I wanted MORE of Elsie and much more of Jane! And I feel as if their stories were given a hatchet job to try and tie a relevant bow around Reba and Elsie.

It wasn't the worst book I have ever read but it wasn't one I read with lots of enthusiasm either.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful! Feb. 7 2012
By Christina (A Reader of Fictions) - Published on
The Baker's Daughter was not what I expected it to be, not really at all. For one thing, I thought the story would focus on Elsie, which, if you consider the main character the person who most of the pages are focused on, she would be. Really, though, the tale seems to be more about Elsie's affect on others, as viewed through the lens of Reba.

This device works incredibly powerfully. Elsie had a great impact on many lives, but, by using Reba as the frame story, McCoy is able to bring in additional themes and commentaries in a natural manner. The story could have been told from the perspective of Tobias just as easily, but I think something would ultimately have been lost. By incorporating Reba into the tale, McCoy is able to draw connections between Nazi Germany, the Vietnam War and the border wars between the U.S. and Mexico.

McCoy tells the story primarily using an omniscient narrator, who follows along with the perspective of one character at a time, but there are also epistolary sections. With this combination of formats, the reader follows along with a handful of characters. What makes this so impressive is that every character was likable, though flawed--especially Reba. They all had unique voices and interesting tales to tell.

The Baker's Daughter left me feeling full of hope and inspiration. McCoy's is a message of hope and the triumph of the human spirit over tragedy, so long as you face up to your fears. I suggest reading prepared; if you don't have any fresh bread or cake from a bakery, you are going to be super hungry!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why is Reba in this Book? Oct. 22 2012
By Annie L - Published on
I just finished reading The Baker's Daughter. I was captivated with the parts of the book that took place in Germany, but was bored to distraction whenever Reba and Riki were mentioned. Their story had no point in the book, and I found Reba's character to be annoying, not terribly bright, and not very likeable either. Her eating problems didn't even make sense. Was she a vegan or wasn't she? After a while, I didn't care what she ate. Riki's story about his job was boring as well; he didn't belong in this book either.

Halfway through the book, I just ignored all the parts about Reba and Riki, and concentrated on Elsie and her family and her life in Germany, and then her life in America with Albert and Jane.

The book would have been so much better by leaving Reba out of the book completely. She added nothing but annoyance.

Otherwise, the rest of the book was good. I especially enjoyed reading the letter from Tobias.

Two stars is all I can give the book.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An inter-generational exploration of loyalty to country and family Feb. 2 2012
By A. McNeil - Published on
It's 2007, and Reba is a journalist living in El Paso, Texas, with her fiance, border patrol guard, Riki. She hasn't been able to bring herself to be fully honest with him about her dark childhood overshadowed by her Vietnam Vet father's struggle with depression and PTSD. Christmas is coming up, and she is interviewing Elsie, the owner of the local German bakery. Elsie has some intense secrets of her own that show it's not always easy to know what's right when your country and family go wrong.

It is a complex tale that McCoy expertly weaves, managing to show how people are the same, yet different, across race, time, and gender. Reba's and Elsie's tales are about two very different kinds of bravery. The most memorable parts of Reba's story, for me, are when Elsie advises her on love in real life, as opposed to the love you see in movies and fairy tales. One issue I had with the book, though, is that although we see Elsie's two relationships before her husband in stark clarity and reality, we never really see what it is that made her ultimately choose her own husband.

I am sure most people will most intensely react to the story of Elsie's actions to attempt to save a Jewish boy during WWII and may even wish that was the only real story told.

One critique I have that slowed the book down for me and made it less enjoyable are the insertion of letters between Elsie and her sister, Hazel, who is in the Lebensborn program. Compared to the rest of the book, the letters were slow-moving and only moderately interesting. I can't help but feel shorter letters would have gotten the same message across without slowing down the story quite so much. Also, that cover? Yeesh.

Overall, this is a life-affirming story that teaches the value of connecting with the older generations and cautions against thoughtless nationalism. I highly recommend it to fans of literary and WWII fiction alike.
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