Summary from BN.com: 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.
Before reading this book, I had never heard of Amish Friendship Bread before. After reading this book, I was rather hoping that someone would drop off some bags of the starter for me to make some. I absolutely adored this book. It pretty much includes everything that I do love in reading a good book. There's a good story, great writing, multi-dimensional characters, intriguing relationships and lots of yummy food.
The story focuses on several women in the town of Avalon. Julia is a mother who is still recovering from the lost of son several years ago. Her estranged sister Livvy is working at a newspaper with the ambitious journalist Edie. Hannah is a cellist who is discovering life without her cheating husband. Madeline owns a tea shop/restaurant that brings the women together including Connie, a former Laundromat worker with a passion for people. You might think it's hard to keep track of everyone but Gee's writing is so engaging that you get swept into all the stories. Each women is giving ample time for their own personal story to come out and take shape. Since they all interact with each other, their stories overlap and blend perfectly together. Many of the stories have regrets and sadness but also bring hope and happiness for the future. It's an incredibly positive story but doesn't do it with cheesiness or unbelievability. I also love how the story comes full circle at the end.
In addition to these women, there is also the story of the town and the Amish bread that won't go away. Sprinkled throughout the story are short little passages from various members of Avalon who have been blessed/cursed with bags of starter that have been gifted/forced upon them. These passages are hilarious, cute and touching as we see how the bread affects them. The culmination of the story involves a town wide community project to help people in crisis and they do it with lots and lots of bread. It's a great way to see a small town come together, forget their differences for one day and help out others in need.
There are also recipes included in the book for making the starter for the bread as well as many of the variations mentioned in the story. I am severely tempted to make it for myself but I'm not so sure I want to pass it around to people as I can see their reactions mirroring some of those from the book! This was a really great story and I'm so glad that I discovered it. I really hope that there are more books that feature these characters or in this style of writing because I absolutely loved it.
Friendship Bread by Darien Gee is published by Ballantine Books (2011)
This ARC was provided by the publisher