SheKnows book review: The Baker’s Daughter

Sarah McCoy’s second novel, The Baker’s Daughter, is a story of survival, forgiveness and having the courage to do what’s right.

Sometimes we don’t notice when we’ve crossed a line and changed our lives forever. That was the case The Baker's Daughterfor journalist Reba Adams when she stepped over the threshold of Elsie’s German Bakery in El Paso, Texas, in the fall of 2007. On the other hand, Elsie Schmidt knew immediately on the winter night in 1944 when she opened her door to a Jewish boy in her hometown of Garmisch, Germany, that she had altered her destiny.

Sarah McCoy’s The Baker’s Daughter focuses on two women: Elsie, who came of age in the waning months of the Nazi regime, and Reba, two generations younger, who is still finding her path. Alternating between World War II Germany and contemporary Texas, The Baker’s Daughter is a story of survival, forgiveness and having the courage to do what’s right.

At first, it appears that Elsie and Reba couldn’t be more different. But as the two get to know each other, they find their pasts run in parallel directions. Although McCoy vividly contrasts the dark rooms and wood-fired ovens of Elsie’s childhood with the hustle and bustle of today’s world, she also shows us that not everything has changed. Both women have witnessed the effects of laws that impose sanctions against a specific group of people (albeit at significantly different levels) and both have tried to forget unpleasant memories. Through their conversations, Elsie and Reba find a way to self-acceptance.

McCoy’s masterful characterizations make it easy to forget that The Baker’s Daughter is a novel. Readers form such tight connections to Elsie and Reba that we rejoice in their victories and let the tears flow at their sorrows. We learn the importance of opening our hearts to others and that the smallest acts of questioning, bravery and rebellion, can help change the world.

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