The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy is a novel told in a number of different points of view and spans several time periods, including the final year of World War II. Two strong female protagonists, each haunted by the past and each past is tied to war in one way or another.
Elsie Schmidt is a German immigrant to El Paso, Texas, who spent the last year of WWII in her father’s bakery working and shying away from the decisions that came with living in Nazi Germany. Unlike her sister, Hazel, who was in the Lebensborn program and praised for her work to help the Fatherland, Elsie sees herself as more of an outsider, lacking in the standard skills expected of a Good German.
“While Hazel thrived and grew more popular, Elsie felt oppressed and stifled by the uniforms and strict codes of conduct. So at the tender age of eleven, she begged Mutti to work in the bakery.” (Page 16)
Reba Adams is also an El Paso transplant, but she’s a journalist looking for her latest feel-good piece for the magazine she works for, but she gets more than she bargained for when she meets Elsie. Meanwhile, she’s hiding from her past and the ghosts of her dead Vietnam veteran father and failing to fully commit to the life she’s created in Texas with her fiance Riki, a border patrol officer.
“Everyone on campus knew her from the photograph in the Daily Cavalier: her lips bulging on the mouth guard; fuzzy, dark hair matted beneath the headgear; gloves up and ready. They thought she was an anomaly coming from the Adams family.” (Page 33)
The two different main perspectives in two different time periods is deftly handled by McCoy and each of her characters are strong and stubborn, but neither is lacking in dynamism or flaws. Also unique to the novel is how well McCoy weaves in the elements of baking and pastry into her description; it is seamless and will make readers’ mouths water and have them itching to try the recipes in the back of the book. Touching on family loyalty, mother-daughter bonds, father-daughter bonds, relationships of all kinds, plus the search for love and forgiveness, McCoy reaches deep inside the dough to knead the bonds of these women to help them grow outward and inward, allowing them to absorb more love and connections. The recipe for a successful novel is two parts dynamic characters, one part intriguing plot and story lines, and one part clever writing style, and The Baker’s Daughter provides all the nourishment you’ll need.
SARAH McCOY is author of the novel, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas. The Baker’s Daughter is her second novel. She is currently working on her next.
This is my 16th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.