Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Review: Friendship Bread by Darien Gee

Be prepared to be blown away by this astounding novel of love, friendship, loss, and forgiveness.

Five years ago, in the little town of Avalon, Illinois, Julie Evarts's world changed forever. Her son Josh died in a tragic accident and not even the birth of her daughter Gracie could help bring her out of the grief and despair that have filled her life since that day. Her husband Mark doesn't know how long he can handle the ever-growing distance between them. A starter bag and a set of instructions for making Amish Friendship Bread mysteriously arrives at their front door. Could this be the key to begin the healing process?

Madeline Davis, now a widow, moves to Avalon and opens a tea salon. Residents in town are wary of newcomers, so business is slow, but she's hoping it picks up soon. While she waits, she has plenty of time to think about the secret she's carried with her all the way to Avalon.

Hannah Wang de Brisay is hesitant when her husband Philippe suggests they buy a house in Avalon to get out of the city. Both classical musicians, Philippe has always been the one to decide how things are going to be, while Hannah is the one who goes along, always unsure of what she really wants. She soon discovers she'll have more than enough time to consider what she wants when her marriage comes to an abrupt and surprising end.

Livvy, Julia's younger sister, is plagued by guilt. She and her husband Tom struggle to make ends meet, knowing they would love to have a child of their own.

Edie is an activist and reporter with the local paper, and friends with Livvy. When Amish Friendship Bread starts appearing all over Avalon, she runs with the little information she has, hoping to create a great story that will get her noticed.

No one in Avalon realizes how that one bag of starter will impact all their lives.

Amazing. Superb. Phenomenal! All those words and more describe Friendship Bread
by Darien Gee. There is so much I could say about this novel, and yet, I am hesitant to say too much, because it is one of those books you must experience for yourself.

Back in the late 80's, maybe early 90's, I remember those bags of starter sitting on the kitchen counters in my relatives' homes. I never understood what the big deal was. I certainly wasn't interested in spending my time squeezing, measuring, and baking. What Gee has done, however, is taken that sometimes beloved, sometimes despised, infatuation and given it a much higher purpose--one that changes the lives of those in an entire community and beyond.

Intertwined with the unfolding stories of our main characters, Gee includes snippets of happenings in the lives of other residents of Avalon, giving the reader a real town feeling, where at the end, she might think she could drive to this town and meet its residents. How Amish Friendship Bread manages to touch people from all walks of life in Avalon from a copy machine technician to a therapist, from a police sergeant to the town librarian, from a pharmacist to a bike shop owner, and more, is inspiring, and proves just how connected we are to each other.

Gee blends a superb cast of diverse characters with a unique plot to come up with an amazing story that will make you laugh, make you cry, and leave you feeling good all over. The perfect book to take on vacation or a long drive, you won't be able to put this one down until you reach the satisfying end.

Friendship Bread might be about love, friendship, loss, and forgiveness, but it is so much more too. It's a book that celebrates coming together for the greater good. It's a book that reminds us of the little things that mean a great deal. It's a book that shows us no matter how lost we get, we can always find our way back. And it's definitely a book you won't want to miss!

Title:  Friendship Bread
Author: Darien Gee
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 0345525345
ISBN-13: 978-0345525345
SRP:  $25.00

Also available in a Kindle edition.

The publisher paid me to promote Friendship Bread through a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book. That fee did not include a review. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I received no monetary compensation.

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