Unorthodox

The Baker's Daughter

by Sarah McCoy

Gail Reid (06/16/13): The Baker's Daughter has strong overtones of the bestseller Sarah's Key in one very significant way. Both authors construct novels around a Holocaust story and a modern situation with parallel (though not necessarily life-threatening) themes.

Eighty-year-old Elsie runs a bakery in El Paso, having escaped Nazi Germany, where as a teenager in her father's bakery, she harbored a young Jewish boy. Engaged to a Nazi officer for whom she had no feelings, Elsie uses him as an insurance policy for she has put her whole family at risk.

Reba Adams, a 20'sh journalist in El Paso, is assigned a story to interview Elsie about Christmas customs in her native Germany. Reba gets much more than a feature story. Her friendship with Elsie and her American daughter Jane quickly changes her feelings about family and friendship. Reba's own relationship with her fiance Riki is floundering because she has not come to terms wtih her father's suicide and PTSD after the Vietnam War. Riki,a Mexican-American border agent, agonizes over his role of breaking up families and sending illegals back across the border.

The author, Sarah McCoy, skillfully interweaves these two stories and their many subplots into a meaningful story. The book does a fine job of showing us how World War II and the Holocaust resonate today in related themes.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (05/22/13): Reba Adams is a young journalist in El Paso, Texas and her assignment about Christmas customs in other countries brings her to Elsie's German Bakery. Reba expects a quick, light and fun interview. Instead, she is introduced to the horrors that every day Germans had to face during WWII.

Elsie Schmidt was a teenager back in 1945 when her family lived under the Nazi regime in Garmish, Germany. She was the town's baker's daughter. She became engaged to a Nazi SS officer so that her family would be protected by him and his connections. Upon looking at the engagement ring she was given and seeing that the engraving was in Hebrew, she became aware of the graft and corruption that was going on the in the Nazi organization. She began to doubt all the propaganda she was presented with and when a young Jewish boy showed up on her doorstep, she made the decision to put her family at risk and to hide the child in her attic.

Reba and Elsie and Elsie's daughter meet frequently to listen to Elsie's stories and to learn from her experiences. Reba is greatly impacted by what she hears and it alters her life choices going forward. This was a wonderful book and I enjoyed it very much.
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton (04/24/13): The Baker's Daughter intertwines the stories of a German family's existence during the Holocaust, and a young couple living in El Paso, Texas. Both face issues with family, relationships, racial tensions, and in taking a personal stand on ethics, despite the "laws" of the land. Having read many Holocaust stories, it was interesting to learn how the Nazi authority impacted German lives, instilling fear, limiting food rations, threatening traitors. The program to impregnate single German women to produce perfect German children who belonged to the state was something I was not aware of, including the " disposal" of less than perfect children. The stories were realistic, not all happy endings. I especially liked the numerous cases of people finding "family" in people not related by blood. A good read, though not great depth. 4-
Rating: ****-

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