Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: The Union Street Bakery

The Union Street BakeryAuthor: Mary Ellen Taylor
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade

Life can turn on a dime. It’s a common cliché, and I’d heard it often enough. People die or move away. Investments go south. Affairs end. Loved ones betray us...Stuff happens.

Daisy McCrae’s life is in tatters. She’s lost her job, broken up with her boyfriend, and has been reduced to living in the attic above her family’s store, the Union Street Bakery, while learning the business. Unfortunately, the bakery is in serious hardship. Making things worse is the constant feeling of not being a “real” McCrae since she was adopted as a child and has a less-than-perfect relationship with her two sisters.

Then a long-standing elderly customer passes away, and for some reason bequeaths Daisy a journal dating back to the 1850s, written by a slave girl named Susie. As she reads, Daisy learns more about her family—and her own heritage—than she ever dreamed. Haunted by dreams of the young Susie, who beckons Daisy to “find her,” she is compelled to look further into the past of the town and her family.

What she finds are the answers she has longed for her entire life, and a chance to begin again with the courage and desire she thought she lost for good

“By seven, the earthy fragrance of freshly baked bread perfumed the shop. The front display cases burst with breads, cookies, and pies. The place was transformed from a dark cold place to a warm inviting retreat that beckoned those who passed. Rachel had done this. She had brought the sunshine.” – Paperback Copy pg. 24

“A good bit of bluster eased as they left but without anger to fill the space, sadness filled in the creases. As I moved back toward the bakery, I had the sinking sensation that life had again turned on a dime.” – Paperback Copy pg. 34

“Besides, I had enough in the present to worry about. My real job was gone. My real savings were gone. And I’d thrown my lot in with one sister who couldn’t add a column of numbers and another who’d rather have her head in ruins.” – Paperback Copy pg. 57 & 58

“As I read the words on the first journal page, the hairs on the back of my neck tingled. Energy pulsed through my body. I had the sense that I was becoming reacquainted with an old friend. That I’d somehow known this girl who’d written these words over 150 years ago. I was not like Margaret, who believed in the past life/karma theories. I believed that life was only about the living, and you have what you have right here and now.” – Paperback Copy pg. 86

“But for now I was willing to settle for some sweet denial and benign procrastination.” – Paperback Copy pg. 117

“That night, I fell into bed just before nine. My body ached and my head throbbed from energy overload. I sensed I was on the edge of something huge. It was something that felt dark and dangerous and like it or not would change my life forever. And as much as I wanted to turn back and run to my old life, I knew that a door had shut and a dead bolt thrown. I could remain in limbo, churning and fearful, but I was ready to creep closer to the edge.” – Paperback Copy pg. 190

Daisy McCrae is without a job, a place to live, or a boyfriend so I guess you could say she has run out of luck and options. Her family has offered her a job and accommodations staying and working at the family owned bakery, The Union Street Bakery. Daisy has just left her career and was well established within a highly influential company, so this makes the transition back home even harder. Not to mention, she doesn’t really get along with her two sisters and the thought of the mother that abandoned her on the McCrae’s doorstep all those years ago still haunts her. Nevertheless, the bakery needs Daisy financially and Daisy may not know it going in, but she needs the bakery more than she knows.

As a young girl, Daisy was abandoned by her mother and on the bakery doorstep and eventually adopted by the McCrae’s. She calls her mother “Renee” because she was too young to remember her and even though several missing person reports were placed, the police were never able to locate Daisy’s mother. On her first day back to the bakery an old and somewhat feeble lady walks into the bakery, a loyal customer, and claims that she knows Daisy’s birth mother. Daisy thinks it is some type of hoax at first, but then not long after the elderly woman dies and leaves Daisy a journal full of answers to all her unanswered questions.

I loved the mystery behind the story and I loved how the journal of this slave girl brings Daisy and her sisters closer together. Daisy starts to find the purpose in her life; the one she has been missing all the years prior to that moment. I loved how the mystery unveiled itself chapter by chapter and how we are able to follow Daisy on her journey. At first I wasn’t impressed by Daisy’s character because she seemed so depressed and dry, but when the mystery of her birth mother stares her in the face, we suddenly see this very vivacious character come to life.

There is a “ghost” story mixed in with this book as well and of course the story is filled with tons of imagery related to the bakery and all of the wonderful goodies that Daisy and her sisters concoct. At the back of the book there is a list of recipes that were mentioned in the book and I just love finding these recipes in books like this; it makes them that much more heartwarming. I could feel myself inside the Union Street Bakery and I was impressed by the culture, history, and historical feel that Taylor was able to bring to these pages.

***A huge thank you to the publishers at Berkley Trade for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

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