Liesl's world is bread. Bread has a beauty beyond eating and Liesl is an artisan. She is living out her legacy of bread-baking as owner of Wild Rice bake house. Her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and Liesl continues the tradition.
Liesl's life gets more complicated when her head baker brings his troubled grandson to the kitchen. Then a waitress submits her recipes to a popular cable cooking show for a potential contest. And there is a new delivery man who gets under her skin.
Liesl's quiet life disappears after her television appearance. And then a phone call from a stranger shatters the very foundation upon which she has built her life.
Parrish has created the character study of a young woman who is trying to survive her past as her troubled childhood continues to insert itself into her present life. Relationships are so very difficult for Liesl, she tends to sabotage the attempts others make at closeness. The narrative alternates between the present and her youth as we come to see why she is who she is - a solitary bread artisan.
This book will make you fall in love with bread. Real bread, not the packaged stuff you buy at the store. I was fascinated with the information about bread contained in this novel. Parrish has added vignettes of bread's history throughout the narrative. There are some bread great recipes included too.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Liesl McNamara is the owner of Wild Rise, a specialty bakery in a small town in Vermont. The story is told on three different levels. This should be distracting, but somehow it isn't (that could be because I'm a fact and history nut). The main story is that of Liesl, an only child who has inherited a love of breadmaking from her German mother and Oma (grandmother).
This main story is interspersed with stories from Liesl's pastâ€”happy stories about her learning the art of breadmaking, and sadder stories of grief and loss. The third story is the place of bread in historyâ€”the labour required to produce a single loaf of bread is astounding, as is the role of bread in history. All are written in the first person, from Liesl's viewpoint. There are also recipes linking to the story.
Our initial impression of Liesl is of a competent professional woman, but as the stories progress, we start to see her as a damaged individual with deep issues. She makes bread, in part, because that's something she is able to controlâ€”unlike life. There are some painful and poignant insights into Liesl, into humanity, and into why we find it difficult to submit to God.
Christian fiction mostly stays within strict genre definitions. A novel might be a romance or romantic suspense or a thriller or Amish, but it's definable. This is less so, and with a focus more on the internal journey of Liesl. This, combined with the threefold plot, the recipes and the beautiful use of language is why Stones for Bread doesn't sit comfortably in any genre. It is not romance, although there is a romantic element. It is not action or suspense. The closest definition is women's fiction, but even that runs the risk of missing something. Sure, this is the story of one woman and there are elements all women will find familiar, but there is something more, and it's that something that raises this book above average, above what I normally find in Christian fiction.
I didn't read the recipes. I read the first one and decided to thank God for the fact that I don't have to put this level of effort into putting bread on the table for my family. Sure, even the fresh baked in-store bread from my local supermarket or bakery doesn't match up to what Liesl sells at Wild Rise, but I know I'm never going to put that level of effort into baking a loaf of bread. Maybe that's my loss. Recommended.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze for providing a free ebook for review.
It's been too long since I've picked up a Christa Parrish novel. Her name has become synonymous with that of deep, well thought out women's fiction and I was not the least bit disappointed in her 2013 release.
"Stones for Bread" is not a light and fluffy read (pun intended), but one much like the sourdough our heroine makes and is known for: thick and more than a bit sour. Leisel is a complicated character and you have to read much of the book before the pieces of her story start to unravel to get a glimpse into who this woman is. I loved how Seamus disrupted her normal routine and nothing was the same. I thought the crafting of these two character's relationship was absolutely beautiful. It wasn't rushed or hurried, because that isn't what Leisel would be able to handle. As the reader, you get to watch her slowly unfurl and rise from the ashes that have too long defined her.
It's a great question for the reader too: what part of your past do you allow to affect and define who you are right now? This novel would be a fantastic book club read, but there is also so much to enjoy even if read by one's self.
I've loved the previous two titles I've read by this author. Her way of seeing the world moves me, while also incredibly thought provoking and deep. Stones for Bread is another fine example of the growth and ability that is rising from this able and worthy talent.
This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to the publishers through Litfuse and Netgalley for my copy to review.
Christa's voice was one of the first I read in Christian fiction last year, after a looooong forage into what the world had on its bookshelves. What I heard in her words, what I read between the lines, was that there were others out there like me who wanted to read about God and His personal interest in our lives in more tangible and relevant ways than what the Christian fiction industry had to offer thus far. Since reading that book (The Air We Breathe), I'm happy to say that I've discovered many other authors who are writing about Jesus Christ in a way that gives Him far more credit and GLORY than what I'd come to expect (having had those expectations validated on far too many occasions; unfortunately, even to this day) of this industry.
That being said, I must admit that Stones for Bread took me awhile to embrace. To be honest, I had some preconceived notions based on my own elevated sense of self - I make our family's bread exclusively, and was sure I would relate to Leisl McNamara in that way. But that girl was so far beyond my bread-making skill that I look like a finger-painter next to Michael Angelo.... I felt slowed down by the weight of Christa's words; this novel was so cerebral, like ethereal poetry, that it took me a long time to get into the story, itself. If you've read any Ann Voskamp, you might find that the cover of this book isn't the only similarity--Christa writes Stones for Bread in much the same way Ann writes One Thousand Gifts. This isn't a bad thing--Ann's prose and style are brilliant--but reading this style in fiction definitely requires a different mindset for the reader going in.
HOWEVER, once I allowed myself to sink into the lyrical telling of this beautiful tale, and found my own rhythm in the reading of it, I began to ache and long and celebrate for each of the characters. By the time I was halfway through the book, I was invested in these characters in unexpected ways, and I realized that Christa, in the writing of Stones for Bread, has done what artisans who know their craft do best. She intuitively knows how long to nurture the starter, not rushing the process, she kneads out the hollow places at the right times, and lets the story proof until it's time to turn up the heat. Reaching the last chapter was like cutting into a perfectly-baked baguette that bears the scars of the process that brought it to completion--the knobby crust, the perforated crumb, the irregular shape--and I closed the book with a sense of deep satisfaction.
Another beautiful book by Christa Parrish.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Liesl McNamara's life revolves around bread and the bakery she has opened to follow her passion for the bread. Her memories of her mother and grandmother are wrapped up in the bread and she has sacrificed her dreams of travel for the bread. When it comes down to it, will the bread be more important than her relationships? And how does she fit faith into her life when she's so consumed with the bread?
How do I express how much I loved this book? While it's not very plot-driven, it is rich with characters and emotions and vulnerability. It took me awhile to adjust to the switches between current story, back story, and church history, but in the end, it was woven together so well that it made the book full and deep. The history of bread would not normally be exciting for me to read by itself, but as integral as it was to Liesl's life, it made me care about the bread. So much so, that I actually felt guilty buying plain white sandwich bread while reading this book. That's an absorbing story!
There were so many relationships tied into the story that revolved around bread, but they were intricate and deep and real. At first, I thought that the half-sister story line was distracting, and then I thought maybe it just wasn't filled out enough, but in the end, the purpose of the story was for Liesl to find herself both in the story of the bread and who she was without it, and the family story line served its purpose to help her.
I did find the recipes for bread sprinkled throughout the story a bit distracting; I would have preferred that they maybe be in an appendix at the end, but it did give me an appreciation for how much of an art these breads are.
As with Christa Parrish's other novels, I loved this one, and I give it 5 stars. I will continue to eagerly await her future releases!
I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers, as part of their BookSneeze program, in exchange for my honest review.