By Christa Parrish
Thomas Nelson, 2013
Liesl McNamara’s life can be described in one word: bread. From her earliest memory, her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and the importance of this deceptively simple food. And now, as the owner of Wild Rise bake house, Liesl spends every day up to her elbows in dough, nourishing and perfecting her craft.
But the simple life she has cultivated is becoming quite complicated. Her head baker brings his troubled grandson into the bakeshop as an apprentice. Her waitress submits Liesl's recipes to a popular cable cooking show. And the man who delivers her flour - a single father with strange culinary habits - seems determined to win Liesl's affection.
When Wild Rise is featured on television, her quiet existence appears a thing of the past. And then a phone call from a woman claiming to be her half-sister forces Liesl to confront long-hidden secrets in her family’s past. With her precious heritage crumbling around her, she must make a choice: allow herself to be buried in remorse, or take a leap of faith into a new life.
Stones for Bread is a most unusual book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rich with the history of artisan bread making, an art passed down through Liesl's mother and grandmother, Christa's storylines and style of writing are simply exquisite.
The story revolves around a complex character named Liesl, owner of a bread shop called Wild Rise, and Liesl's life revolves around one thing only in the beginning: bread. "When my hands are in dough, something deep and primordial can hear the voice of God, calling me forth from the earth. It is very good."
Christa's research and knowledge are impressive, and those who bake bread can especially relate to this story. I loved Liesl's family history and her relationship with her grandmother, one example being the way she maintains her grandmother's starter originally brought over from Germany.
But Liesl's relationship with her father is strained, as they both continue to struggle over the death of her mother, and so much in the story stems from this. Flashbacks take us to Liesl's early years and how that loss effected the two of them. "My mother was the warmth, our sun, but she left us and we can no longer find the thermostat without her, even though we walk by it every day, in the hallway, on our way out the door."
The supporting cast is strong and adorable - from Xavier, the head baker who "reads" flour, to Seamus and his adorable daughter Cecelia, who "didn't know loving was something you hafta get taught." Seamus and Cecelia are regular guests on "sacred" Sundays when Liesl hosts a local church fellowship lunch at the bakery, and this description of Cecelia's face symbolizes Liesl's spiritual journey: "It shines with hopefulness, and that part of me that I don't want to exist, the one that needs people, the one that comes awake on these Sundays, drinks in her light. And it says to me, More."
I'll end with one particular part that especially spoke to me. Contrary to the way most business donate leftovers to those in need, Liesl packages her extra bread in the same way she would for a paying customer, because "I will not give to the least of these anything I will not offer to my Lord, should he walk into Wild Rise one afternoon and ask for a little something to eat."
I have never been and never will be a baker of any description, but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment of this story, for it is really a character-driven drama. But those who do bake bread will find much to love and be right at home with all the wonderful bread recipes and history given. Even the sections with historical detail were interesting to me.
Readers will enjoy Stones for Bread purely for Christa's storytelling ability and exquisite writing, with the recipes a delightful bonus. I highly recommend this novel for everyone.
"Stones for Bread is part protagonist memoir, part history lesson, part cookbook, and part contemporary journey from isolation to healing from the past. My agent, Bill Jensen, had started baking bread and mentioned how interesting it would be to write a book about an artisan baker who enters her bread into a contest and her changing world when she wins. I combined that idea with my own idea of writing something that included multiple 'formats.'
"My next book is an exploration of how two unrelated lives can change due to a simple decision. In this case, it’s the decision of one person to give up her seat on an airplane to someone else when the flight is overbooked. Then the plane crashes and there are no survivors."
Visit Christa's website at christaparrish.com to learn more.
This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my honest review.