The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy is both historical fiction and contemporary fiction. It’s the story of Elsie, the eponymous baker’s daughter, who emigrated to Texas after World War II, as well as the story of Reba, a contemporary journalist who meets Elsie while she’s on assignment for a magazine story about Christmas traditions from around the world. Elsie’s story is the story of her family’s struggles to survive in Nazi Germany during World War II. The book also takes on illegal immigration in the border town of El Paso through Reba’s boyfriend’s Riki’s story as well as Reba’s struggles to deal with the grief over her father’s death. It’s not light subject matter at all, but it is an involving read.
First, I’d like to comment on the structure of the book. Elsie and Reba become friends during the course of this book, but Elsie doesn’t tell Reba the story of her youth during World War II. This feels right to me: it was a pretty horrific time for her and her family, and she’d like to move on. I think that Elsie and Reba connect because they are both non-native Texans who had rough childhoods, and in that sense, their stories echo each other.
My favorite sections of the book are the Elsie sections: she’s a feisty heroine, despite all the conflicts she faces. She might strike some readers as too perfect, as in wise beyond her years. I don’t want to give away the details of her story because I think it’s best to enter the novel with a blank slate. The plot wasn’t necessarily the strongest point in this book because the woes that befall Elsie during and immediately after the war are quite extreme, but somehow, not necessarily unbelievable.
The other aspect of the book that I enjoyed were the various relationships among the women: Reba and Elsie’s daughter Jane, Reba and her sister DeeDee, Elsie and her mother, and Elsie and her sister. Those sections felt spot-on psychologically. This is a book about relationships among family members, friends, and with beloveds. Also, the last section of the book made me very weepy. If you’re looking for a book with good relationships, a gripping story about World War II told from the perspective of a German teenage girl, and a good, sad, ending, check out this book.
THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER by Sarah McCoy
Publication date: January 24, 2012Source: Publisher via NetGalley