Friendship Bread

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Overview

An anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.
 
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 ...
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Overview

An anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.
 
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.

Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread.  

When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, Illinois, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is laboring to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.

In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.

About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, Friendship Bread tells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Baked goods conquer profound grief in Gee's by-the-numbers debut. The sorrow felt by Julia Evarts and her husband, Mark, over the death of their son, Josh, six years earlier has chipped away at the foundation of their marriage, but after Julia finds a starter batch of Amish friendship bread on her porch one day, the yeasty surprise helps patch up some spiritual wounds. She shares the recipe starter with a few people in her town, and pretty soon everyone is making it and finding their own simple narratives of bread-driven healing. But none have a harder path to the foregone conclusion than Julia and her sister, Livvy, who was with Josh when he died and has yet to be forgiven by Julia. Yes, the premise is hokey, but Gee's women characters are written with affection (much more so than the men in their lives, who are essentially decorative). Readers looking for a quick, easy fix of heartwarming optimism could do worse. And, of course, the recipe is included. (Apr.)
Library Journal
The magic of Amish friendship bread grips the small Illinois town of Avalon when Julia Evarts, grieving from the loss of her young son, finds friendship bread starter on her front porch. Julia meets Hannah, her soon-to-be best friend, when they both wander into Madeline's Tea Salon. Julia, who just happens to have a couple of bags of starter with her, gives one each to Madeline and Hannah. The three women all have issues—Madeline would like to reconnect with her stepson, Hannah's husband has left her, and Julia is estranged from her husband, sister, and parents. Baking allows them to make new connections, through which they find the strength to mend fences and heal old wounds. VERDICT This entertaining series debut by Gee (who also writes as Mia King) will appeal to fans of tearjerkers like Kristin Hannah's Winter Garden or novels dealing with the loss of a family member, such as Lolly Winston's Good Grief. It's also ideal for book clubs and readers who like stories about small-town life; it expertly weaves together numerous characters and narratives and even includes recipes and directions for making friendship bread. [Author tour; the next Avalon book, Memory Keepers, will be published in 2012; see Prepub Alert, 11/1/10.]—Karen Core, Detroit P.L.
Library Journal
This book has been on my radar since the publicist started raving about it a few weeks back. Julia Everts, still mourning the death of her son, finds a loaf of Friendship Bread and some extra starter on her porch. Baking the bread helps Julia reconnect with her bereaved family and might even set things straight with estranged sister Livvy, who's responsible for the death. Bought in a two-book deal at a hotly contested auction, this novel is being pushed for fans of Kristin Hannah and of Kate Jacobs's The Friday Night Knitting Club. Rights sold to eight countries; I'm betting this will do well.
Kirkus Reviews

Another addition in the recent trend in popular fiction: Small groups of women improve their lives by engaging in a domestic comfort. This time it'sbread making.

Julia and her small daughter Gracie find a gift on their doorstep—a plate of bread, a note and a bag of starter dough. Though Julia is not a baker, and has little interest in...life (more on that later), Gracie convinces her mother to follow the instructions and make Amish Friendship Bread. Part of the requirements are to split the bag of starter into three, bake one loaf for yourself and pass on the rest to someone else—a culinary chain letter. The novel traces the effect of the Friendship Bread on a small town, jumping from neighbor to neighbor, but focuses on a small group of women whose lives need mending. Julia's son Josh died five years ago, and since then life is a daily struggle and her marriage is a mess; Hannah is soon to be divorced by her husband, a famous classical musician (as she once was before an injury); Madeline is struggling to run her tea shop and come to terms with the kind of stepmother she was; Edie is pregnant and is sure it will ruin her career as an investigative journalist; and, finally, Livvy is also expecting, but her husband has just lost his job, and her sister Julia won't speak to her—she's still blamed for Josh's death. Gee admirably weaves the various lives together, linked more often than not by sadness and disappointment, and demonstrates that simple companionship is a powerful balm. The novel's title, and even its conceit, promises a kind of homespun sappiness that the narrative thankfully avoids, delivering instead thoughtful portraits of women on the brink of finding better versions of themselves.

A satisfying first novel by Gee; perfect for the book-club circuit and beyond.

From the Publisher
“The novel traces the effect of the friendship bread on a small town, jumping from neighbor to neighbor, but focuses on a small group of women whose lives need mending…Gee admirably weaves the various lives together…and demonstrates that simple companionship is a powerful balm…A satisfying first novel by Gee; perfect for the book-club circuit and beyond.”—Kirkus

“This entertaining series debut by Gee (who also writes as Mia King) will appeal to fans of tearjerkers like Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden or novels dealing with the loss of a family member, such as Lolly Winston’s Good Grief. It’s also ideal for book clubs and readers who like stories about small-town life; it expertly weaves together numerous characters and narratives and even includes recipes and directions for making friendship bread.”—Library Journal

“Deliciously entertaining! You'll root all the way as these characters stumble toward forgiveness, understanding, and, ultimately, celebration. A perfect book club selection, Friendship Bread is a treat worth sharing with all the women in your life."—Kate Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Friday Night Knitting Club
 
“The wonderful characters in Friendship Bread face life-changing adversity of the sort that either brings us down or transforms us into better people.  Darien Gee has a writer’s heart and a baker’s sense of mixing it all just right. The result is a book you will read over and over.”—Nancy Pickard, New York Times bestselling author of The Scent of Rain and Lightning

“As comforting, warm and delicious as a slice of freshly-baked friendship bread.”—Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author of Promises to Keep

 “Friendship Bread is a poignant, utterly compelling read. Darien Gee has deftly created a small town so endearing, you won’t want to leave. Friendship Bread is a novel you won’t soon forget.”—Patricia Wood, national bestselling author of Lottery

“Friendship Bread is a heartwarming novel that celebrates small town life, good friends, and the healing power of bread. Like the bread of the title, read this then pass it on to someone you love!”—Ann Hood, national bestselling author of The Red Thread
 
Friendship Bread is a vivid, tender portrait of friends, a window into the intricacies of friendship itself. Darien Gee writes with great warmth and wisdom, with deep insight into her characters. She is a wonderful writer.”—Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author of The Geometry of Sisters

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345525345
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Darien Gee divides her time between Hawaii and the West Coast. She lives with her husband and their three children. Her next novel set in Avalon will be available in 2012.
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

I hope you enjoy it.

Julia Evarts looks up from the paper in her hand and studies the gallon-size Ziploc bag. Inside is a substance that reminds her of drywall compound, except it's much pastier and filled with tiny air bubbles. It would have gone straight into the trash had Gracie not been standing beside her, eyes wide with curiosity.

"Mama, can I try one?" Gracie asks. She holds up a china plate decorated with pansies and roses. Several slices of what looks like banana bread are fanned out on the plate and covered with plastic wrap. Gracie was the first to spot it when they pulled up to the house--the plate, the Ziploc, and the accompanying instructions for "Amish Friendship Bread" sitting on their front porch. There was no card, only a yellow sticky note with the five words written in shaky cursive.

For a moment Julia was confused--had the weekly meals started up again? Not that she'd mind having a casserole to serve for dinner tonight, but this? This smelled suspiciously like a chain letter, with the added headache of having to bake something. Julia can't remember the last time she'd baked something.

Gracie tears off the plastic wrap before Julia can stop her. "This looks good!"

Julia has to admit that it does look good. It's coming up on 3:00 p.m., time for an afternoon snack anyway, and as usual she hasn't thought this far ahead. She has no idea how other mothers do it, or how she managed to pull it off before.

"Gracie, hold on. Let's get inside first." Julia unlocks the front door and ushers her five-year-old daughter inside.

She puts their things on the kitchen island and then opens the fridge. It's pretty bare because Julia has forgotten to go grocery shopping, and there's no milk. She doesn't want to have to go out again, so she pours Gracie a glass of water from the tap and heats up the remains of this morning's coffee for herself.

"Now?" Gracie is practically bouncing in place.

They eat straight off the plate, using their fingers. It's not banana bread or like anything Julia's ever tasted before. It's moist and sweet with a hint of cinnamon. It hits the spot, as unexpected kindness always does, and soon there is only one slice left.

"I bet Daddy would like it," Gracie says. Her fingers have crumbs on them, and she licks each one.

Julia bets he would, too. Mark has a sweet tooth, even though he's been on a bit of a health kick lately. She tucks a stray strand of Gracie's mousy brown hair behind her ear, so different from Julia's flyaway strawberry-blond curls. "We'll put it aside for him," Julia says, even though she was hoping to have the last piece for herself. She reaches for the used plastic wrap but Gracie gets to it first.

Julia watches as Gracie tries to extricate the wrap from itself. She waits for the tantrum, for the meltdown that sometimes happens at this time of day, but Gracie manages to pull the plastic wrap apart and lay it over the single slice of bread, carefully tucking it under the scalloped edges of the plate.

"I did it!" Gracie looks at her handiwork, proud. "So now what?"

Julia notices a blue streak of dried paint on the back of Gracie's hand and gives it a rub. "What do you mean, now what?"

Gracie holds up the note and the instructions. "Is this a recipe? It looks like a recipe. Are we supposed to do something? I can mix. I'm great at mixing!" The sugar from the bread has clearly entered Gracie's bloodstream.

Julia turns to look at the Ziploc bag slouching on the counter. She has figured out that it's basically fermenting batter, but the mere thought of baking and what it entails exhausts her. "Yes, you are great at mixing, Gracie," Julia concedes. "It's just that . . . well, someone gave this to us to be nice. They don't expect us to actually do it. I'm not sure I even have the ingredients."

"We could buy them."

Julia gives her daughter a small smile. "I don't think so, Gracie girl." Her voice is apologetic but firm. "Would you like to watch a little television while I get dinner ready?"

Gracie slides off the stool. "I think Clifford is on," she tells Julia, then runs off.

The microwave dings. It's a reminder ding, a clever feature the manufacturer came up with. Or maybe all microwaves have reminder dings now--Julia has no idea. Their previous microwave caught fire when she placed a box of dry macaroni and cheese inside and set the cook time for an hour. Black smoke billowed out and the fire alarm shrieked. Gracie was barely a month old. She was startled but didn't cry, even when Julia broke down and Mark frantically ran about, fire extinguisher in hand as he tried to air out the house.

The microwave dings again. Julia opens the door and sees her cup of coffee. She takes a sip and finds that it's lukewarm and stale. She puts it back in for another minute then stares at the last piece of bread, wondering if Mark will care if she eats it.

He probably won't. He's deferred to her for the past five years, too tired to argue, too tired to try. She can't say she blames him. She doesn't know what to do to make things better, either.

Her coffee is now hot and she pulls back the plastic wrap to finish off the last piece. The evidence is still between her fingers when Gracie walks in holding a piece of pink construction paper.

Her daughter looks shocked, as if Julia has just committed a cardinal sin. "Mama! That was for Daddy!"

Julia feels guilty, and then defensive, but it's pointless either way. First, Gracie is five. She has the clear advantage in this situation, as Julia can't bear to see her daughter distraught. Second, Gracie was born after everything happened. She doesn't know a life other than the one she's living now, where the worst thing that can happen is Julia eating the last piece of Amish Friendship Bread.

Julia tries for an apology. "I'm sorry, Gracie. I was just really hungry."

"But I wanted Daddy to try it." Gracie is near tears.

"Well, we could make him a smoothie or maybe some fruit salad . . ." She has none of these ingredients but offers it up anyway.

"No, I know he'd like this best. I even made a card for him." Gracie holds up the paper in her hand. On it she's laboriously copied the five words from the yellow sticky note.

I hope you enjoy it.

Julia feels a lump in her throat. Her daughter's neat, careful handwriting looks like that of an eight-year-old. Julia knows this because that's how long it took for Josh, a leftie, to master printing. His teacher had suspected developmental dyslexia, and Julia had to fight to keep him out of special ed, not wanting him to be labeled for life. In the end, she had been right. While Josh's handwriting would never be called a thing of beauty--his letters were always sloped, almost kissing the line--he had ended up one of the brightest kids in his class.

As Julia gazes at Gracie's tear-stained face, she knows there's only one solution. She reaches for the instructions for Amish Friendship Bread and sticks it on the refrigerator with a magnet. She steps back, resigned, then puts the Ziploc bag safely to one side as she pulls her daughter into her arms for a tight hug.

"Hold on to your note, Gracie. We'll be baking in ten days."

Mark doesn't want to go home.

That's not entirely true, actually. He wants to go home, but he doesn't want to get into another fight with Julia or hear about what an awful day she's had. Sometimes she'll just look at him in stony silence, indifferent to his questions, a wall.

But it's the sighs that get to him the most. He'll take silence over sighs any day. The sun can be shining, the house spic-and-span (seeing how he stays up late every night cleaning it), Gracie healthy and full of joy, and still it's not enough.

He sits in his car in the parking lot, unsure of what to do. He doubts Julia has come up with a game plan for dinner. She'll probably ask him to get some takeout or heat up leftovers while she goes into the bedroom for a rest.

A rest from what? Gracie's in kindergarten at the Montessori school, gone for a seven-hour stretch of time. Julia doesn't work anymore, doesn't have to do anything. She picks up Gracie from school and that's pretty much it. Mark does everything else, filling in the gaps wherever he can.

There's a rap on his window and he jumps. The smiling face of Vivian McNeilly is looking at him. Vivian is an interior designer with Gunther & Evarts Architects, in charge of all their high-end commercial and residential projects. She motions for him to lower his window.

Mark presses the button but nothing happens. It takes him a second to realize that the engine's not on. He fumbles for his keys and turns the ignition, feeling like an idiot when the window finally descends with a hum.

"Am I interrupting anything?" Vivian is all smiles. She has a lilting voice, something Mark has always noticed and appreciated for its ability to charm a client. "You look like you're deep in thought."

"What? No. I'm just debating whether or not to go to the gym." What a dumb thing to say, especially since he already worked out before going to the office this morning. Mark wishes he could take it back.

But Vivian nods solemnly as if this is the most intriguing thing she's heard all day. She's worked for them for a year and he's never felt uncomfortable around her, but suddenly he's picking up a vibe he hasn't felt in months.

Years.

"Where do you work out? I ask because I usually run through Avalon Park after work, but I was thinking about picking up a gym membership somewhere." She leans forward, just a bit, and he catches a whiff of perfume.

Mark knows where this is going and that he should just nip it in the bud, but he finds himself contemplating Vivian instead. She makes it look effortless--the wavy auburn locks that fall just past her shoulders, her fitted suit and heels, the way she leans comfortably against the door of his car. She can't be a day over thirty but she holds herself like a woman who's seen the world. She's bright and single, much too young to be living in a small town like Avalon. Before he can stop himself, Mark says, "I go to a gym in Freeport. Fitness Lifestyles. It's a really great facility--they've got an indoor pool and everything."

Why is he telling her this?

"That sounds great," Vivian says. She is beaming and Mark's not sure what just happened. "So I'll follow you there? I have my running gear with me. Maybe we could grab a quick workout after I sign up?"

He's in dangerous waters. Sink or swim.

"Maybe some other time," he says, and offers a conciliatory smile. His palms are sweating as he grips the steering wheel. "See you tomorrow." He manages a wave before putting the car into drive and gunning it out of the parking lot.

Julia stands over the kitchen sink, her hands soapy as she washes each dish and puts it onto the wooden rack to dry. Mark is getting Gracie ready for bed.

This time, the evening time, is the only time Julia feels sane. Safe. She can finally breathe, can finally let herself exhale without fear that the ax is going to fall and destroy what's left of her life. Whatever has happened during the day is over, gone and done with. Her husband is here, her daughter is here. They are all in the same house, under the same roof. Even if they pass each other silently in the hallway, at least they are together.

All that's left to do is finish washing the dishes, then she'll wipe down the table, shower, and crawl into bed. She won't bother with a book or television, as Mark likes to do, but fall straight into a dreamless sleep, her mind and heart finally at rest.

Julia reaches for the next dish. The unfamiliar weight in her hand makes her look down and she sees that it's the scalloped plate that was left on their porch, a few crumbs still on it. She takes a moment to admire the red roses, the pale blue and violet pansies dotting the dish. When she and Mark had married, they were poor and young. It seemed like a waste to register for china, an extravagance. Plus, they had joked, the children would probably break it. They rolled their eyes, imagining the messes to be made by their future progeny. Already Mark and Julia were making plans for these children, letting their decisions revolve around these little beings that had yet to be conceived.

"Can we register for Tupperware?" Mark had asked, and Julia had only giggled.

Julia runs a soapy hand over the smooth plate, wistful and sad for what could have been. When she turns the plate over in her hand, she sees a printed stamp on the back side.

Fine Bone China Shelley England

But that's not what makes her suck in her breath, almost drop the plate into the water. There's a pattern number, and then the name of the pattern right above it.

Rose . . . Pansy . . .

And then the last one, on a line of its own.

Forget-Me-Not.

CHAPTER 2

"Heads, it's a girl. Tails, it's a boy." A shiny quarter sails through the sky and Livvy catches it with a laugh. She gives her coworker a nudge. "Come on. Guess!"

Edie takes a bite of her sandwich. "While I appreciate your highly scientific method for determining the sex of my unborn child, I think I'll pass. Besides, I don't know for sure that I'm even pregnant. I'm just late."

"Edie, come on! I don't know what you're waiting for."

Edie's blue eyes sparkle behind a pair of rectangular glasses. "My period, maybe?"

Livvy slaps the quarter onto the table. "Heads. You're having a girl." She reaches for her own lunch, a cold pasta salad tossed in a low-fat Italian dressing. She can't understand Edie's nonchalance about this. If Livvy were late, she'd be in the drugstore buying every pregnancy kit available to man. Or, in this case, woman.

She hasn't told anyone that she and Tom have started trying, just in case it doesn't happen. Livvy's thirty-seven, not exactly over the hill, but Tom is convinced that the longer they wait, the greater the chance that something could go wrong. He knows two people who know other people who have children with Down syndrome. Livvy feels her indignation rise. You can't really control these things, and even though she's not a religious person she believes all things happen for a reason. Even the unthinkable, which she's witnessed firsthand. She just nods her head when Tom suggests forgoing birth control to "see what happens."

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Interviews & Essays

Darien Gee on Friendship Bread

My journey with the novel started in 2009 when my then eight year old daughter brought home a Ziploc bag filled with a gooey sourdough starter. My initial response was a shake of the head—if you've ever seen (or smelled) fermenting batter, well, let's just say that it's something you won't soon forget. She also had a few slices of what looked like banana bread and a page of instructions. The top of the page read "Amish Friendship Bread.”

It didn't take long for me to figure out that this was essentially a culinary chain letter, a "bake and share” routine that grew exponentially as you passed the starter onto not one, but three more people. I could see people running in the opposite direction, a bit like I wanted to do at that moment.

My daughter begged me to try a piece, so I did. It was moist and sweet with a sugar-cinnamon crunch. I had finished off the slice and was starting on another one when I saw a woman in my mind, reluctantly holding up a bag of starter and regarding it with a frown. She was lovely, but she was sad. I didn't know what had happened, but it was clear that she was stuck in the day-to-day motions that mimicked life when in fact she hadn't felt alive in years. I saw her own young daughter, her husband, the home they shared together.

I put the bag of starter in a mixing bowl, the instructions tucked inside, and placed it on the counter. I told my daughter we would be baking in ten days and I started writing Friendship Bread that night.

Friendship Bread is about what can happen when one person is willing to reach out and help another. It's about two estranged sisters who find a way to reconnect, about new friends who encourage and inspire one another. It's about a town that pulls together to help a neighboring community in need. It's about the least likely people being the ones that can make the biggest difference. This may seem like an overly simple solution, but maybe it's not as insignificant as we think. Maybe there's more power in it than we realize, and all it takes is one person who's willing to give it a try.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 113 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    You will love this book and pass it to your best friend.

    Friendship Bread is something you have to nurture, devote your time to, and add all sorts of yummy ingredients to yield this delicious bread for you to share just like a true friendship.

    True friendship is all about devoting your time to nurture and grow your relationships with women. Think of people as the ingredients for your bread because a different assortment can yield the most amazing friendship.

    Friendship Bread by Darien Gee is an extraordinary book all about using the most delicious ingredients to make the most amazing bread, I mean friendship. No matter where you are in your life you will meet different women, or men, in different stages of their lives and you can come together and make a friendship to last a lifetime.

    Once I started the novel I was a bit lost because of all the characters then I started to understand all their stories is like adding different ingredients while you are baking. Some bread you have to let it rest to rise before you bake. Just like this novel, I had to understand their stories to fully understand the book.

    I'm so glad I allowed the story to rest in my mind because I fully understood the blessings I was being told in Friendship Bread.

    I would recommend this book to anyone no matter what stage of life they are in. Whether you are a teenager, a single woman, a mother or even a grandmother, you will discover how important a true friend is and how tasty friendship bread can be.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2012

    Friendship bread is a story that has tons of mystery, intrigue,

    Friendship bread is a story that has tons of mystery, intrigue, humor, infidelity, tragedy and don't forget how a bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter (dough) and a recipe can bring a community, family and friends, old and new, together.

    there are not alot books that get me interested and move me and this one did just that and more. It made me want to share it with everyone I know even my 13 year old daughter loved it. Its a moving and emotional book that will have you crying, laughing and cheering with the each of the characters. There is never a dull moment as the author tell you each characters life story, and how they all end up being all interwoven with small town life in the fictitious town called Avalon. A anonymous bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter is left on the door step of a grieving family, the instructions and recipe attached. The bread begins to make it's way into friends and neighbors homes and businesses, helping to introduce readers to the characters and their problems. Throughout the book new friendships are formed, old wounds healed and relationships restored.I mean whats better than happy endings? The best part of this book there is the recipe for this special Amish bread so you can start this amazing connections around you city. I can't wait to try it!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2012

    This is a wonderful book about life, death, friendship food and

    This is a wonderful book about life, death, friendship food and family, most of all community. It's an uplifting story where three women come together offering support for each other. A book just as good as the bread that keeps on sharing.
    The entire idea behind the bread itself was the reason I read the book. It's always intriguing to think something as simple as bread and dough starter can cause a rippling effect everywhere. It starts with the three women and soon enough the entire town is baking and marveling at the healing process it brings along the way. A true heartwarming read. The characters are believable and the setting is perfect, it just has a wonderful flow about it. I've read it twice unable to put it down and will enjoy it again soon enough. I'll be sharing both Friendship Bread, book and bread with friends as I know they will enjoy it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Bubbling over with EXCITEMENT!

    I am just bubbling over with excitement about the release of Friendship Bread! The author, Darien Gee, has crafted a novel that deals with love, friendship, death, family and food! She took all of that, mixed it with wonderful & memorable characters and created a huge batch of small town community!

    I read the book quickly because I could not put it down. I was drawn into the lives of each and every character mentioned. I know that sometimes a book with many well defined characters can lead to confusion but in the case of Friendship Bread, each and every person had to be included to take the book where it ended up.

    Because I'm so familiar with the baking of Friendship Bread, I was picturing in my mind that Gee had a huge 20-cup bowl and she was tossing in 1 teaspoon of Leon, 1/2 teaspoon of Clinton, 1/2 cup of Norma, 2 cups of Robert, 1 teaspoon of Clyde, 1 cup of Julia, 1 tablespoon of Gracie and all the other characters along with 2 cups of love, 1 cup of compassion, 1 tablespoon of forgiveness and 1 cup of Amish Friendship starter. All of this mixed together and as time goes by, a real community is formed like a hot loaf of Amish Friendship Bread. (mmm, mmm, good)

    I'm a sap for books and movies that make me cry and Friendship Bread did just that! Gee's writing made it real. She made me cheer along, cry and laugh with each passing turn of the page. In the end, I was left hungry with a need and a desire to reach out to those around me in my own life who need a little love, hope, encouragement, friendship and food!

    Now I'm off to read the book a second time. I'm sure I'll have more to write after that! Oh and if you have never baked the bread, Gee cleverly included recipe for you!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2012

    It was such a good read that it didn't take me long to get throu

    It was such a good read that it didn't take me long to get through the whole book. You go through all the emotions of the characters and experience what they are going through.I laughed and cried many times and feel that this would be a great book to share with others. It showed me that no matter that there is a way to find forgiveness,in the strangest places.

    There are also recipes included in the book for making the starter bread and also more that sound so good to me. I can't wait to try the recipes~the only problem is getting past the 10 day wait time...

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2012

    A GREAT Summer Read!

    This book is an amazing story about the trials life can face us with, forgiveness, and the power of friendship. You will laugh, feel joy, pain, sorrow and the feeling you get when you know when a person you met becomes a real friend.

    I love how just a starter mix (for bread) given to a few people in the community can help create such a bond, a friendship between the characters in this story. It just goes to show you never know when you are going to meet your next amazing friend.

    This book is a perfect Summer/Vacation read. The Premises sounds heavy, but it takes a back seat to the books wonderful views on love, forgiveness, and friendship.

    This book inspired me to make sure I keep all of my friends close and to always have an open heart to the possibilities of new friends and what's to come. It has also inspired me to make some friendship bag and pass a few starters around...

    What's a starter? get the book, everything will become clear!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    A Yummy & Wonderful Book

    I happened to see this book on one of those tables at B&N, and I'm so glad I did! I absolutely loved it!! Each of the main characters is going thru a type of personal struggle, and they find comfort and support thru people they met by chance. It's amazing how one bag of starter worked it's way around and pulled a whole town together. I can't wait to try the added bonus - recipes!! Wonderful!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    Something for Everyone!

    Once you start this delicious novel, you won't be able to put it down. The inter-woven stories of six women in this small, Illinois town are enough to capture any reader. Each of these interesting women has a story to tell; a story of pain or loss. Through the events of this novel, as the Friendship starter is passed throughout the town, each woman slowly learns to trust another with her heart as she looks to heal and move forward. The emotions are real and there isn't a situation here that every reader can't easily identify with. Each character walks a different walk, comes from a different place; cross-generational women, reaching out to help one another. It's a story of sisters, moms, friends, bakers, artists.no one is left out here. This brilliant author has found a way into the reader's heart through these great characters. Darien Gee gives the details and thought that make a book great. A book that will stay with you long after you finish the Epilogue; it will stay in your thoughts and call you back to read it again. In addition, this book is a slam-dunk for anyone that loves food or loves to bake. I was dying to get a nibble of all the great foods mentioned in this book! Don't miss the recipes included in the back of the either. I'm seriously considering whipping up my own "starter" and passing this around my small town! A book to love, a book to give, and a book to remember.don't miss this one!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2011

    Warm, wise, and lovely. warm, wise, and lovely. It brings back what read

    Sometimes a book comes along that stays in your thoughts for days or weeks after you've finished reading it. Darien Gee has written just that kind of a novel. Her story of loving friendships, family, and small town life is enchanting. At the heart of this story is something called Friendship Bread. Julia Evarts receives a gift of this bread and it amazingly changes her life. She is still grieving terribly over the death of her son, five years earlier. By the simple act of baking and sharing the bread with others, friendships are made and hearts are mended. The author also includes a recipe for baking a loaf of you own Friendship Bread. This book is warm, wise, and lovely. It brings back what reading a good book is all about. Pure pleasure.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2011

    A great book for women of all ages!

    Every once in a while I stumble upon a book that is so good that I want to buy copies for everyone I know, because I don't know who to give it to first... Friendship Bread by Darien Gee is one of those books.
    You need to get through the introductory chapters to really feel the essence of this book - at first I was afraid that it would fall into some of the traps that many authors do of introducing more characters than necessary, but once I started getting familiar with everyone, the characters came to life and were all so intrinsic to the book, I wouldn't have changed a thing.
    This book had me going through the emotional ringer - I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I was overjoyed. It's really amazing how the basic concept of sharing a loaf of bread and some starter became so much more in a book. I love how the book brings so many people together who are at different points in their lives. It's amazing that women who have so much baggage can really find insight in the simple baking and sharing of bread... Over each person's 10 days of waiting for the starter to ferment, their lives changed and it was so interesting to see that transformation.
    This book took some completely unpredictable turns and I can't wait for my friends to read it so we can discuss it in detail and I haven't even started to tell you about the recipes interwoven into the book... you'll just have to buy a copy to see what I mean.
    I recommend this book whole heartedly and would also suggest that it would be great discussion at your next book club! I also hope that Darien Gee continues to share the town of Avalon with us in future novels!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2011

    A must read!

    I have to say it took me a while to really get into this book. I also have to say having twin 3 year olds running around and a 1 year old as well, which did not help. Once I got past all the background information and really got into the story I was hooked. So, once you get past chapter one you will love it. Darien Gee(Mia King) writes a beautiful tale of bringing the characters together and really digging into the emotions of them. It was very touching and I really felt close to the women. I was crying sometime and laughing others. I also love that the recipe for the bread was in the book, kind of a way to pass it on in your own city.

    You can pre-order from Friendship Bread: A Novel before the release date of April 5th. You can also get the digital version as well. I love that because you can read it on a Ipad or Ipod or computer also. The author, Darien Gee is the real name of novelist Mia King, the author of Sweet Life and Table Manners.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2011

    Loved it!! Must Read!!

    I was given Amish Friendship Bread a couple years ago, and I LOVED IT!! It is such a YUMMY treat. When I saw a chance to review this book: Friendship Bread, By Darien Gee, I was intrigued. It seemed like a great read, and it REALLY was. I loved the book, and am excited to try the recipes that they share at the end of the novel.

    The novel focuses on two estranged sisters, three newfound friends, and how a simple loaf of friendship bread, left on a doorstep, brings a whole town together. I loved that when I started reading the book, I was transported to this little town, and sharing the lives of everyone in it. I loved all the characters and was wrapped in their problems, their concerns, and I wanted to help them.

    I read the book in two days and wanted to make the Friendship Bread right away and start spreading love and friendship through my little town. The book made me realize we don't know what problems others have around us, and we also don't know what kind of friends we could have in our own backyards. Friendship can come from where you least expect it. The young to the old, etc. You don't have to be the same age, or the same nationality, you can find friendship anywhere. Also, by helping others and serving people around you, you can find yourself. I love Julia Evarts character. She is so engulfed in her own tragedy, and can't look past it all, but by a simple act of kindness she starts to slowly ENJOY herself and remembers what else is important in her life, and starts to mend things that were broken for so long.

    This truly was a great read--It would be perfect for a book club.

    Just a side note:
    I have one small complaint and that is the character Vivian and her use of the F-word on one page.
    I can't stand that word, and I felt it was totally unnecessary, I know some might think that is a little petty, but I am all about wholesome language.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    It's not often that a book makes my eyes tear up.

    This book managed to do so. I'd never heard of Darien Gee or Amish Friendship Bread before. For the first 50 pages or so, I just kind of plodded along, enjoying it well enough but not finding it particularly outstanding. But somewhere along the way I got so sucked in that I didn't want to put the book down to go to sleep.

    There are a lot of characters, and keeping up with all of them may be part of why it took me a bit to really get my bearings. But as the pages turned, the characters' distinct personalities came through and I felt connected to them. I really cared about them and what would happen in their lives, especially Julia and her sister, Livvy. Not every author can make you feel that way about her (or his) characters.

    I'm debating whether I want to try any of the friendship bread recipes in the back of the book. My seventeen-year-old daughter recently commented that maybe she should be a "baker" some day, so she might enjoy trying it with me, and there's a recipe for "Double Chocolate Friendship Bread". Kind of hard to pass that up!

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequel. In the meantime, I looked up the author on Fantastic Fiction, and she has three other books under the name Mia King - Good Things, Sweet Life, and Table Manners. So I'll be tracking those down!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    Recommended to Everyone

    I felt extremely lucky to be chosen to read an early copy of this amazing book. I find Darien Gee to be a masterful storyteller. She takes a group of people and makes them real and makes us care and love them. She weaves together lives in a heartfelt way. I love the prologue, Leon is an amazing character and shows how one person can touch the lives of so many and never ask for anything in return. I love Madeline, Livvy and Julia, Hannah and they did not even realize what they needed until they found it. One of the best characters in the book is little Gracie. I love the way she looks at the world. Loss and regret is something she has always known. Leon's simple gift of Amish Friendship bread for a family that had know so much sadness was not just the event that brought them all together but the bind that held them together so they could find love and friendship again.

    Friendship Bread is a wonderful book that will have you laughing and crying. It is simply beautiful.

    The recipes in the back were added bonus. Amish Friendship Bread is fun and tasty. I was even able to adapted the recipe and make gluten free Amish Friendship Bread.

    I recommend this book to everyone. Those in love, out of love, hurting, grieving. This is one of those books that will touch your heart.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2011

    Loved it! Couldn't put it down!!

    What I really loved about this novel is the way all the different characters and their lives were so intertwined yet unpredictable. You think you know where the story is headed but there's always a twist here or a turn there that keeps you guessing. These characters are also so real that they could be one of your friends, relatives, or neighbors. I think that's what made it so captivating for me . . . I felt like I could relate to these women even though I may not have had the same experiences. I wanted to hug Julia when I found out about the death of her son. I wanted to tell Hannah that she's better off without her loser husband. And I wanted to sit down for a cup of tea with Madeline and listen to all of her life experiences.

    I was so sad to see the story end yet very satisfied with the ending. Friendship Bread is definitely a book I'll read over and over again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2011

    Wonderful book.....you will want to share some Friendship bread and this book with your best friend!

    Darien Gee has hit a home run with this novel. She makes you care about the people in this town and wish you could visit. It is unpredictable and keeps you wanting to read more. I'm looking forward to my next visit with the people of Avalon.

    I have read and enjoyed all of (Mia King's) Darien Gee's books but this is one I will truly read again!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2011

    Sweet & Filling

    I was fortunate enough to have this book sent to me as an Advance Readers Edition. The problem with receiving a book this way is you don't choose the book. I have to be honest I assumed it wouldn't be very good, otherwise why would they send it to me for free? I am happy to say I was wrong.

    This story was so much more than I expected. I expected a light piece of sweetness, instead it had substance. I am a fast and frequently impatient reader and the first few chapters had me a littl...moreI was fortunate enough to have this book sent to me as an Advance Readers Edition. The problem with receiving a book this way is you don't choose the book. I have to be honest I assumed it wouldn't be very good, otherwise why would they send it to me for free? I am happy to say I was wrong.

    This story was so much more than I expected. I expected a light piece of sweetness, instead it had substance. I am a fast and frequently impatient reader and the first few chapters had me a little nervous. I think it took me until the end of the fourth chapter before I realized I was hooked.

    The author keeps introducing new characters throughout the book and I worried that it was turning into a genealogy text but I rolled with it,and with no effort at all she tied them all together. For me this was a story about friendship, and heartbreak, and forgiveness, with a dash of humor and some lessons folded in.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is a compassionate community drama based on the concept that good food is a healer of many emotional traumas

    In Avalon, Illinois six years has passed since their offspring Josh died. Neither Julia nor Mark Evarts has moved on as each is trapped in their grief; so much so their marriage is being torn apart from inside. She also never forgave her BFF sister Livvy who was with her son when he died.

    Julia and her five years old daughter Gracie arrive home to find an odd package waiting for them. An anonymous person left homemade Amish Friendship Bread and a starter kit on how to make your own loaf. She wants to toss the package out, but Gracie begs her not to dump it. They bake the bread and soon Julia begins distributing the recipe to people in need like Widow Madeline Davis struggling with her tea salon and concert cellist Hannah Wang de Brisay whose marriage and perhaps her career has died. Over tea and bread, Madeline, Hannah and Julia begin to heal while the latter ponders whether to bring Friendship Bread to Livvy who has not forgiven herself.

    This is a compassionate community drama based on the concept that good food is a healer of many emotional traumas even the death of a loved one; sitting Shiva for instance includes neighborly dishes. The women are terrific as the audience will understand what eats at each of their souls. Although the men in their lives lack any dimension beyond that of the respective woman in their life, fans will appreciate the uplifting message to bake a Friendship Bread (recipes included) to help heal a hurt.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2011

    Such a great read for all women! It made me laugh and cry.

    Have you heard of (or tasted) Amish Friendship Bread? The cinnamon bread/cake is made from a sourdough starter and is often shared with others in a way similar to a chain letter. Darien Gee's new novel entitled Friendship Bread tells the story of Julia Evarts and how one simple loaf of bread changed her life and eventually the lives of those in her community.

    I'm a pleasure reader when it comes to books. Every now and then I find a really good book and reading it is like a good chat with an old friend. This book hits that nail on the head! Here are a few of the reasons I enjoyed this book:
    * The book is "Dedicated to the Mothers." I love this! I related to so many parts of this story. As a wife and mother I laughed and cried right along with the female characters.
    * The story is current and personal with references to the economy and local natural disasters. Regardless of where you call home we can all relate to job layoffs or ill weather that affect us or our loved ones.
    * Recipes are included in the back! I've made Amish Friendship Bread but never any of these variations: banana nut, butterscotch, double chocolate, lemon poppy seed, pineapple macadamia nut, pistachio cherry, pumpkin cranberry or zucchini. I especially want to try the Chocolate Caramel Brownies made from the friendship bread starter.
    * Friendship bread starter takes 10 days to ferment. While reading the book I liked to compare the 10 day process to an extended therapy session. I knew if one character had a trial and they had also received a bread starter that I could keep reading with confidence and by the time they baked their bread they were well on the road to solving their problems.
    * The biggest lesson learned for me while reading this novel was Madeline's words of advice on a particularly bad day. In short, her words were that the unexpected turns make life rich. This is a great reminder to me that when the going gets tough those are the moments that define who I am and who I'm becoming.

    Original review was posted at MoanaSaves(dot)com.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2014

    Lovely book, very entertaining.

    Lovely book, very entertaining.

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