07 March 2011

Friendship Bread


Publisher’s Synopsis:

An anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.

One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others.

Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread. 

When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, Illinois, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is laboring to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.

In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.

About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, Friendship Bread tells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

It’s not often that a book makes my eyes tear up, but this book managed to do so. I’d never heard of Darien Gee or Amish Friendship Bread before. For the first 50 pages or so, I just kind of plodded along, enjoying it well enough but not finding it particularly outstanding. But somewhere along the way I got so sucked in that I didn't want to put the book down to go to sleep.

There are a lot of characters, and keeping up with all of them may be part of why it took me a bit to really get my bearings. But as the pages turned, the characters’ distinct personalities came through and I felt connected to them. I really cared about them and what would happen in their lives, especially Julia and her sister, Livvy. Not every author can make you feel that way about her (or his) characters.

I’m debating whether I want to try any of the friendship bread recipes in the back of the book. My seventeen-year-old daughter recently commented that maybe she should be a “baker” some day, so she might enjoy trying it with me, and there’s a recipe for “Double Chocolate Friendship Bread”. Kind of hard to pass that up!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel. In the meantime, I looked up the author on Fantastic Fiction, and she has three other books under the name Mia King – Good Things, Sweet Life, and Table Manners. So I’ll be tracking those down!

(I received an ARC of this book from The Random House Publishing Group.)

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