I was drawn to this by the title since I love bread, but of course this book is so much more than baking. Set during WWII in a small French town near Normandy trying to survive the brutality of the Nazi occupiers, the village baker develops ingenious ways to outsmart them. Through a broad array of well-drawn characters, the town comes alive in our minds, so we wince at each cruel strike and cheer when the townspeople score even a small victory. The descriptions of the Normandy invasion are told from a fresh, and well-researched perspective. As the real survivors of this war pass on, these historical stories feel ever more valuable. The Baker's Secret is one worth sharing.— From Mary M.
“Emma is an apprentice baker in a small Normandy village during the Nazi occupation whose quiet determination to keep her friends and grandmother alive is heroic and heart-wrenching. Forced to bake ten loaves of bread for the Kommandant each day, Emma stretches her supplies to make extra loaves to help feed the starving villagers. While she refuses to think she is part of the resistance and has lost hope of the Allies arriving, Emma epitomizes the French spirit of survival. Once again, we learn that the bravest among resistance fighters are often little more than children themselves. What a beautiful book to recommend to book groups and customers seeking a well-written story.”
— Patricia Worth, River Reader LLC, Lexington, MO
"A tale beautifully, wisely, and masterfully told."— Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
From the multiple-award-winning, critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day.
On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country.
Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.
In the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers.
But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them.
Stephen P. Kiernan has won numerous awards, including the Brechner Center’s Freedom of Information Award, the Scripps Howard Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment, and the George Polk Award. He is the author of two previous novels, The Curiosity and The Hummingbird, and two nonfiction books. He lives in Vermont with his two sons.
Praise for The Baker’s Secret: “Transcends even a critical moment in history to suggest the inescapable human condition of ignorance of the future, and the absolute necessity of hope, courage, and unselfish sacrifice.” — Sena Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife, Four Spirits, and The Fountain of St. James Court
“A tale beautifully, wisely, and masterfully told.”
— Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
“This many-faceted, thought-provoking story prompts soul-searching about life, war, and death.” — Booklist
“Remarkably touching, insightful and timely… bridges several powerful stories of life and death that explore the cost of courage and the true meaning of heroism… Illuminating, uplifting and ultimately redemptive.” — RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars)
“In this moving saga, Stephen P. Kiernan tells the story of soldiers and survivors, heroes and healing. . . . I’m not sure I’ve ever read a novel that so poignantly depicts the brevity of life, the significance of each moment, the impact we have on one another.” — Mary Morris, author of The Jazz Palace
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