Monday, May 2, 2011
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. -- Ballantine
The cover of FRIENDSHIP BREAD by Darien Gee alone made this book a must-read for me (isn't it gorgeous?); however, the description didn't hurt either. This novel sounded like a book that I'd love -- one that deals with love and loss, relationships and the strength of friendship. I am always drawn to heart-warming stories like this one!
I really enjoyed FRIENDSHIP BREAD. This might sound corny, but the book acted as a sort of comfort food for me -- just like real Amish Friendship Bread. I loved how I felt while reading this book because it made me grateful for the relationships I have in my life. It also made me feel good about our society in general because it demonstrated how individuals can make a difference in people's lives. Not only did characters in this book make new friendships and help people to heal, but they also pulled together to make a major difference in a community that was affected by flooding.
FRIENDSHIP BREAD tells the story of a group of women whose lives are brought together (and forever changed!) over friendship bread. I appreciated each of the women and even loved a few of them (like Madeline, the woman who owned the tea shop), and I thought Ms. Gee did a wonderful job developing each one of them. All of the women had their fair share of "issues," but it was through their sharing of Friendship Bread and the starter that allowed each one of them to really deal with the hardships in their lives. I especially loved so many of the messages in the story about the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Many characters learned to effectively deal with loss and grief while also developing new (and rekindling old) relationships. Needless to say, I was deeply touched by these messages!
FRIENDSHIP BREAD is ultimately a feel-good book, but I have to warn you about a few things when you read it! This book might make you cry. Many of the characters are experiencing life events that readers will relate to -- for me, it was the loss of a child that affected me the most; however, others might be touched by the woman whose husband left her for another man or the woman who lived with extreme guilt or even the sisters who hadn't spoken for years. Having said that, I appreciated FRIENDSHIP BREAD because it could make me feel so much! Another little warning: you will be hungry while reading this book. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to drop everything and make a batch of the starter so I could try some of the recipes mentioned in this story. Ms. Gee has a unique knack for describing the desserts and I swear I gained weight just thinking about all the delectable treats!
I also want to mention another thing that I loved about FRIENDSHIP BREAD although it doesn't actually appear in the novel. There is a fantastic website devoted to all things related to Amish Friendship Bread -- it's a Friendship Bread community, if you will. Of course, there is additional information about the book and the author, but there are also discussion threads and over a hundred amazing recipes. Who would have thought this little starter could make such wonderful desserts as Pumpkin Scones, Almond Joy Friendship Bread, Carrot Cake Bread with Cream Cheese Icing, and even a Weight Watchers Friendship Bread? In addition, this site also has some great stuff for book clubs which leads me to my next thought.....
FRIENDSHIP BREAD would make a perfect book club selection for groups made of women. I think that most females who read this book will be able to relate to the characters and their stories, and there's always the added benefit of serving variations of Amish Friendship Bread at the meeting. There is a reading guide available which delves into some of the themes presented in this novel. Some topics you might want to explore include loss, grief, healing, mother/child relationships, guilt, friendships, marriage, regrets, forgiveness, and redemption. There are really so many great things for your group to discuss!
If you are like me and love feel good books about female relationships, then FRIENDSHIP BREAD is a must-read book. It's also an ideal gift for Mother's Day to show the women in your life how special they are to you!
Thanks to Pump Up Your Book for providing a review copy of this novel.