Net Galley

REVIEW: Friendship Bread by Darien Gee

Friendship Bread
Author: Darien Gee
NetGalley review

NetGalley synopsis: In the quiet community of Avalon, Illinois, Julia Evarts wonders how to move on with her life. Though her husband and five-year-old daughter give her anabundance of love, Julia still reels from a tragedy that has left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend. Meanwhile, across town, widow Madeleine Davis takes great pleasure in serving up delectable treats and cozy comforts at her tea salon – now, if only she had some customers to enjoy them. And famed concert cellist and recent Avalon transplant Hannah de Brisay finds herself at a crossroads when her career and marriage come to abrupt ends. The three strangers forge a friendship at Madeleine’s Tea Shop, and soon their camaraderie extends to everyone in Avalon in the guise of a unique and wonderful gift. But even as Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.  

Life and loss, friendship and community, food and family: Friendship Bread tells a spirited, remarkably moving tale about the triumph of hope.

This is my second NetGalley review,  and again a new edition  (this was originally published last year).

I enjoyed reading this book very much!  The characters were real, believable and well-developed.  We met many characters within the first few chapters and at first I wondered how many new people we would continue meeting and wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy constantly starting new story lines.  But it wasn’t like that at all!  After meeting the major characters within the first 4-5 chapters, there were random chapters that I thought of as “vignettes” for lack of a better word.  Whenever I read one of these random chapters, I was able to see how the town was connected by the Amish Friendship Bread.

The story was a really great one.  It was emotional, funny in parts, about loss and recovery, family, friends and a “tomorrow could be better” attitude (which was taught to our main character Julia). At first I was kind of mad at Julia.  Mad because her husband was also dealing with the tragedy that estranged her from her sister. (The tragedy was something that I generally identified before it was explained to the reader, and I’m sure many other readers picked up on it as well) Yes, she has suffered a tremendous loss, but so had her husband and her family.  And her relationship was different from that of her husband’s but he was also suffering and didn’t know how to help her.  She pushed him away.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens in real life in similar situations (and I hope this is something that I will never experience).  (Sorry for being so vague, though I’m sure you’re kind of guessing what the tragedy was).  Luckily, their relationship does get better with work, of course, but we see the progress of how to come back from such a loss.  Julia finally learns that family is what can help you come back from a dark, unhappy place:

“…he is her family and she wants him, regardless of what condition he’s in, to be  a part of her life. That’s really it, she realizes. That’s family in a nutshell. You take them as they are, and you love them, no matter what.”

I really enjoyed seeing the progression of the friendships and the Friendship Bread.  The Bread spreads throughout the community and it was a wonderful thing.  Madeline and Hannah are truly good people and good for Julia to have befriended. They helped bring her back to the world, all by chance and with a little help from the Friendship Bread.   I love that Julia and Madeline (and again the Bread) help Hannah realize she is a strong, wonderful woman who has more to offer the world than her music.  I also liked that Hannah turned to food. Someone who had barely done more than use a microwave became someone so comfortable and commanding in the kitchen.  She took control of her kitchen and her life.

Madeline is the older woman mother/grandmother/aunt figure that everyone loves.  She has life experience but doesn’t thrust it down everyone’s throats.  She is gentle and kind, but knows when to speak up.  But she has her own past pains, too.  Through a minor “accident”, she ends up with a happy ending which she was never sure would actually happen.

Edie, a fairly new person in the town, works for the local paper.  She is the character that I didn’t really care for. I thought she had a “holier -than-thou” type attitude at times.  She felt that everyone should always do things to help the greater good (don’t spend the extra money on those clothes you want, send it to a third-world country to help other people). She writes a really stinky article about the Friendship Bread “epidemic” (I wrote a note in my Kindle at the end of the article: “terrible”).  And even though she writes a nice article in the end after an amazing event occurs, I still don’t think it fully redeemed her character.  And I don’t think she was a very good girlfriend to her great boyfriend.  There was an exchange in the book between Edie and her boyfriend in which she said he is too good for her and he agrees and I wrote a Kindle note agreeing, too.

Connie started out as a minor character that I really liked, so I was happy (and not completely surprised) when she made a larger impact later in the story.

So now I know you’re curious, what the heck is Amish Friendship Bread??

The basic idea of Amish Friendship Bread is this: You begin with a starter (aptly named, no?), then after 10 days of kneading the starter and adding some ingredients, it is ready to be baked, but first you must split it into 4 equal  parts.  You use one of those quarters to make your Friendship bread and then distribute the other new starters to friends so they can make their own breads.    I absolutely love this idea and was super excited to see a recipe to create my own starter as well as numerous recipes to make different kinds of breads (and even brownies and pancakes!)

I want to try this sometime soon.   Though I don’t know many people who bake and would be afraid to make a lot because each starter makes more starter (it’s explained in the book).  Apparently, you can get a lot of information on it if you Google it.   I guess this has been around for about 30 years.  I haven’t Googled anything yet, but according to the book, no one really knows why it’s called Amish Friendship Bread.

I definitely recommend this book!!  And if you’ve read it, I would love to hear your thoughts.  And if you choose to read it after reading my review, come back and let me know what you think!

(image courtesy of randomhouse.com and synopsis is from the Net Galley page.  The image links to the Goodreads book page).

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