- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Crown (January 24, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0307460185
- Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)
Germany, 1945: Elsie Schmidt is relatively secluded from the dangers of the world, thanks to a high-ranking Nazi officer who wishes to marry her. On Christmas Eve the facade begins to fade, two separate incidents cracking the shell that has surrounded her for so long.
El Paso, TX Present time: Reba Adams is working on an up-beat, feel-good, Christmas piece for a local magazine. She’s been attempting to secure an interview with the owner of a local German bakery for some time. She’s relatively new to El Paso, her difficult childhood has left her unable to settle down in one location for too long. Her fiance, Riki Chavez, works as a Border Patrol agent.
When Reba is finally able to meet the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery, the relationship takes an unexpected turn. She begins making repeated visits, Elsie and her daughter Jane become integral parts of Reba’s life. Through her conversations with Elsie, Reba learns of the darker times of Elsie’s childhood, the circumstances that brought her to El Paso, seemingly an entirely different world as compared to Nazi Germany. While the two aren’t necessarily the same, they share similar components. Still, the difficulties that Riki deals with as a border agent pale in comparison to what Elsie dealt with as a young woman in Germany. Her stories of her sister Hazel’s sacrifices in the name of the Fatherland are heartbreaking, almost unbelievable. It is with Elsie that Reba deals with the often hidden truths of the pasts and discovers the importance of forgiveness.
The Baker’s Daughter is a truly beautiful story of two women, separated in age by decades, who really aren’t that different at all. Coinciding with the stories of these two women are the difficult topics of cultural inclusion (and exclusion), a topic that is very timely in our country at this time. Elsie is a an incredibly brave and selfless individual, the transition the reader sees in her as a young woman into a business woman in El Paso is tremendous. Thanks to Reba, Elsie opens up about her past, sharing with her daughter, Jane, secrets long buried.
I’d be remiss not to mention the food aspect of this book. Elsie’s family, the Schmidts, are a family of bakers whose shop barely survived the War. The reader is teased by discussions of delicious German pastries and baked goods, ultimately rewarded with recipes at the book’s conclusion. A woman of German heritage myself, the food, the terms of endearment, the history this family shared brought back fond memories of my own.
McCoy paints a very honest and obviously quite well-researched story about how unveiling the past can help those in the present, how past traumas can be used as moments of inspiration and growth. The Baker’s Daughter is a story that I will forever cherish, a story that sparked hours of discussion with my husband (a history buff), a truly inspirational tale. Highly recommended.