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Review: The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

Title: The Baker's Secret
Author: Stephen P. Kiernan
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult Fiction
Pages: 305
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)France

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher. This review is part of a TLC Book Tours

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): On June 5, 1944, as a gray dawn rises over the small town of Vergers on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country.

Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was like-wise powerless to help when he was pulled from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers taken by the Nazis.

In the years during which her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves--contraband bread that she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, Emma has built a clandestine network of barter and exchange that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers. Like a gypsy, she makes her way around the village, moving among desperate inhabitants and arrogant occupiers--a deal maker, an observer, and a keeper of secrets.

But her gift to the village is much more than a few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope--by enabling them to care for one another, by being a model of dignity and defiance, and by helping the villagers survive should the Allies ever come.

As a brutal Nazi captain begins to uncover her network, and the intricately woven web of resistance and subterfuge starts to unravel, the people of Vergers find their bonds tested as never before. Ultimately, Emma, facing potential execution, displays a courage and strength of will that shows them all a path to redemption.
Review: A different view of World War II is always going to work for me and this book was no exception! 

I love that the main character is a young French woman and her grandmother. They are the center of a wide ring of resistance near Normandy on the eve of the allied invasion. However, the story looks back over the previous months to lay out the dealings, the secrets, the betrayals, and the friendships in this small village. Some people are so brave when they need to be, while others sell out their neighbors to save themselves. This story shows multiple sides of war: collaborators; perpetrators; and resistors.

The feeling that the French villagers had as the Allied forces arrived must have been full of conflict. Relief that help had finally arrived, anger that their farmland and houses were being destroyed, and fear of what the new soldiers would do to them. There was one line in particular that stood out to me. As Emma and another villager look down on the beach and see the dead lying on the sand, the various boats approaching land, and the gun battles taking place, they marvel that "they came for us. People they do not know." It must have been an overwhelming and emotional moment.

If you like good writing and a great story, this book will not disappoint.

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