The Baker’s Daughter

Written by Sarah McCoy
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

What does a 17-year-old German baker’s daughter during World War II have in common with the owner of a German bakery in present-day El Paso, Texas? Plenty, as the reader soon discovers. This story by Sarah McCoy, author of the acclaimed The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico, interweaves past and present in an absorbing story of loss and renewal.

Reba Adams is a journalist who befriends the elderly Elsie and her daughter Jane. Elsie operates a German bakery in the corner of western Texas. Reba is dubiously engaged to Riki, a Mexican-American man who works at the Border Patrol. Both Reba and Riki are trying to heal fragmented pasts before their relationship can truly work.

While the present-day story is a good one as Reba and Riki find their way back to each other, the story of Elsie in 1940s Germany is stunning, heartbreaking and absolutely riveting. The writer touches upon the Lebensborn program, in which young, mostly single, German women had babies that were given to the Fatherland to promote the Aryan Nation. Elsie’s sister, Hazel, is part of this program and gives birth to three children, one of whom comes to live with Elsie and her parents when Hazel disappears.

Elsie unwillingly becomes engaged to a Nazi officer, Joseph. When a Jewish boy saves her from being raped by another Nazi, Elsie risks her life by hiding him. The events that derive from this one impulsive act shape the rest of Elsie’s life.

Delectable German baked goods, such as lebkuchen hearts and brotchen, are mouthwateringly described throughout the book and, in fact, the author was kind enough to provide a few recipes. Replete with raw emotion and suspense, The Baker’s Daughter is a fascinating journey through a horrifying time in world history that will resonate long after you close the book.