In 1945, Elsie Schmidt is a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she is for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.
Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fianc, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines are often blurred.
Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.
©2012 Sarah McCoy (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
I love books!
First time author for me. My wife and I listened to this together and both thought it was great. It was well crafted in how the author went back and forth from Garmisch, Germany during the war to present day El Paso, TX and sometimes in between, telling the story of the different characters at the different times. There were parallels during the different times but an overriding there was forgiveness and forgiving oneself. It was a very touching story and I recommend it highly. I read one review as I started the book where the reviewer commented that World War II themes were getting worn out and I disagree with that statement. There were so many different aspects to that war, the different stories that can come out of that dreadful event will likely never stop. Enjoy
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
One of the best WWII stories yet, written about a normal German family who owns and runs a bakery and is trying to survive during the war . . . the story takes place in beautiful Garmisch, Germany, surrounded by the Bavarian Alps and where just a few years earlier, in 1936, the winter Olympics were held. Now, in 1945, it's a different Germany and a different world . . . Elsie, the youngest daughter of the baker, just seventeen years old is invited to her first Nazi ball . . . her parents are so proud . . . and a tiny young Jewish boy, brought out of the concentration camp to entertain the Nazis, sings like an angel at the ball . . . what a voice!!! Are they really going to send that boy back? Elsie begins a journey that Christmas Eve that changes her life forever . . . no longer a naive girl, the choices she makes may cost her everything. This is a well written story, correlating between two time frames, the 1940s and sixty years later in El Paso, Texas. It boils the brutal truths of war down to simple choices that each person makes, one day at a time. Shows us that we each have a responsibility, even when the whole situation seems enormous and out of our control. That if we each do what we can, when we can, it really does matter. This book will stay with me for a very long time.
I liked Elsie's story much better than Reba's; I couldn't understand Reba's motivations, but Elsie's progression was natural.
I do agree with one reviewer that Reba as a character was really self-involved, and I couldn't understand why Ricky would put up with her. I loved Elsie as a character, because she cut through all the crap and got right down to business.
Elisabeth Rodgers was a good narrator, though I found her German pronunciation was clunky in places.
This is a worthwhile read, intertwining, bittersweet, and well-done.
I liked how the characters developed. While growing their characters in the present tense and with sneaking glimpses of their past, we see how all of these experiences shaped the people they became--always evolving.
Elsie-- strong and courageous during a dark time.
Yes. It was hard to put down.
I really enjoyed Elsie's story. I thought it was fascinating. I would give those sections of the book 5 stars. I just couldn't get into the character of Reba, though. She annoyed me to no end and after a short while I found it torture listening to her sections of the book. I found her story boring and rather pointless.
Member Since 2006!!
There were 2 stories in this book: “Elsie’s Story” the tale of a baker’s daughter set in Germany during WW2, and “Reba’s story” our modern day protagonist – a journalist living in El Paso Texas where Elsie lives in the present.
I enjoy stories set in Europe in the 30s and 40s; the experiences fascinate me. I am always drawn to novels set during that tumultuous time in our history and this one was particularly interesting because I learned about the Lebensborn Association, which I had surprisingly never hear of up until now.
Elsie’s story was terrific. I loved it. Alternatively I found Reba’s story so completely pointless and unnecessary, that it was just a distraction from the overall tone of the novel.
What was the purpose?? If the intention was to help readers link events in the present to those in the past (a-la history repeating itself) I think it all fell flat. Her father’s atrocities in Vietnam in 60s and the crimes committed by Nazis in the 40s or the plight of Mexican immigrants in the 90s and Jews fleeing from Europe in the 30s… it all felt so contrived!! … not to mention futile. Also, I found the laughably weak pretext of Reba “writing an article” in order to get her story line to intersect with Elsie’s so thin that it practically evaporated.
If you could somehow completely excise Reba’s story from the book, then I could have easy given it 5 stars but as it was it was too disappointing to rate over a 3.
This book was ok. I learned a little about wartime Germany and more about baking. Unfortunately, the WWII theme is starting to wear on me. I understand the need to know our history and conveying it through personal emotional stories is an effective medium, but at this point the dough is being overworked.
Also, the style of storytelling, jumping between years and characters, too is being used too often in novels. I really don't like it, though it was less confusing in this book than in others.
Lastly, a stronger parallel should have been painted between the two male characters that were "just following orders". Their stories were more compelling than a late-20s/early-30-something first-world-problems main character. It was a stretch getting me to like Reba when Other characters had real stories to tell.
The narrator moved at a good pace, but her accents were annoying. Jane was way too "butch", and the voices she gave to the men drove me crazy. The German voices were better than the southern drawls, and I preferred this narrator to many others I've heard, but she over-did it from time to time. I appreciate the effort, though.
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