“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.”
This seems like the beginning of a light hearted, delicious summer read, but don’t be fooled by the charming cover and seemingly easy going premise. This is a book that packs quite a punch and offers a lot more than laughs, though laughs are present and accounted for.
Julia Evarts is a deeply depressed mother, still trying to recover from the death of a child five years ago. But through the small, unexpected gift of this loaf of bread and starter kit, which she would have simply thrown away if her daughter had not begged her to bake it – Julia is able to finally begin to heal, as much as you can heal from a tragedy like that.
This is a story about more than just Julia Evarts though – you meet several other people, dozens in fact, though only a few are what you might call “main characters” – the small circle of women that become friends with Julia, and her family and theirs. You meet Hannah, the beautiful retired Cellist reeling from a sudden divorce, Madeline the widow who moves into town on a whim and buys an old bed and breakfast which she turns into a tea salon, Julia’s sister Livvy who has been cut from her sister’s life since the death of Julia’s son and Livvy’s friend and coworker Edie the brilliant reporter with a heart of gold but not much love for baking.
This is a book of healing and a book of friendship. It’s a book I almost didn’t think I had the strength to read. The premise of Josh’s death is so tragic and brought me to tears several times. I wasn’t sure my heart could handle reading a story like that, but I am so glad I finished it. I’m glad to find that I’m stronger than I thought and I’m grateful to have made it through to the happy ending. I normally shy away from books and movies that involve tragedies like that, but I’m glad that I pushed through with this one because it was so worth the tears.
I loved the way this book branched out, introducing more and more characters as the starter begins to get passed around the small town of Avalon, Illinois. This is a town where everyone knows your name and by the end of the book you feel like you know everyone’s name, too, and the town really begins to touch your heart as you see what all these characters are made of. You’ll want to pick up and move to a town just like Avalon or feel a sense of pride if you are already blessed to live in a similar place.
And even better – this book will make you want to bake, possibly to the detriment of your waist line and the protests of your friends. The book includes several recipes for bread, pancakes, brownies and more – dozens of variations on the original recipe and endless uses for the small bag of starter which seems to just keep on growing. By the end of the book over 7,000 loaves of bread are baked – all from one original bag of starter!
Have you ever had or made Amish Friendship Bread? I’d love to hear about your experiences with it! Want to start an AFB tradition? Check out this Facebook fan page for recipes, tips and more!
This post was written for Family Review Network & Mia King who provided the complimentary book for review in exchange for my honest opinions. Friendship Bread by Darien Gee will be released in hardcover on April 5, 2011, but you can pre-order it at Amazon.com now!