A solitary artisan. A legacy of bread-baking. And one secret that could collapse her entire identity.
Liesl McNamara’s life can be described in one word: bread. From her earliest memory, her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and the importance of this deceptively simple food. And now, as the owner of Wild Rise bake house, Liesl spends every day up to her elbows in dough, nourishing and perfecting her craft.
But the simple life she has cultivated is becoming quite complicated. Her head baker brings his troubled grandson into the bakeshop as an apprentice. Her waitress submits Liesl’s recipes to a popular cable cooking show. And the man who delivers her flour—a single father with strange culinary habits—seems determined to win Liesl’s affection.
When Wild Rise is featured on television, her quiet existence appears a thing of the past. And then a phone call from a woman claiming to be her half-sister forces Liesl to confront long-hidden secrets in her family’s past. With her precious heritage crumbling around her, the baker must make a choice: allow herself to be buried in detachment and remorse, or take a leap of faith into a new life.
Filled with both spiritual and literal nourishment, Stones for Bread provides a feast for the senses from award-winning author Christa Parrish.
"A quietly beautiful tale about learning how to accept the past and how to let go of the parts that tie you down." —RT Book Reviews, 4.5 stars, TOP PICK!
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
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Stones for Bread
By Christa Parrish
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Christa Parrish
All rights reserved.
I'm young, four, home from nursery school because of snow. Young enough to think my mother is most beautiful when she wears her apron; the pink and brown flowered cotton flares at the waist and ruffles around the shoulders. I wish I had an apron, but instead she ties a tea towel around my neck. The knot captures a strand of my hair, pinching my scalp. I scratch until the captive hair breaks in half. Mother pushes a chair to the counter and I stand on it, sturdy pine, rubbed shiny with age.
Our home is wood—floors, furniture, spoons, bowls, boards, frames—some painted, some naked, every piece protective around us. Wood is warm, my mother says, because it once was living. I feel nothing but coolness in the paneling, the top of the long farm table, the rolling pin, all soaked in January.
At the counter, the smooth butcher block edge meets my abdomen, still a potbellied preschooler's stomach, though my limbs are sticks. Mother adds flour and yeast to the antique dough trough. Salt. Water. Stirs with a wooden spoon.
I want to help, I say.
You will, she tells me, stirring, stirring. Finally, she smoothes olive oil on the counter and turns the viscous mound out in front of her. Give me your hands. I hold them out to her. She covers her own in flour, takes each one of mine between them, and rubs. Then, tightening her thumb and forefinger around a corner of dough, she chokes off an apple-sized piece and sets it before me. Here.
I poke it. It sucks my fingers in. Too sticky, I complain. She sprinkles more flour over it and says, Watch. Like this.
She stretches and folds and turns. The sleeves of her sweater are pushed up past her elbow. I watch the muscles in her forearms expand and contract, like lungs breathing airiness into the dough. She stretches and folds and turns. A section of hair comes free from the elastic band at the back of her head, drifting into her face. She blows at it and, using her shoulder, pushes it behind her right ear. It doesn't stay.
She stretches and folds and turns.
I grow bored of watching and play with my own dough, flattening it, leaving handprints. Peel it off the counter and hold it up; it oozes back down, holes forming. I ball it up like clay, rolling it under my palm. Wipe my hands on the back pockets of my red corduroy pants.
My mother finishes, returns her dough gently to the trough. She places my ball next to her own and covers both with a clean white tea towel.
I jump off the chair. When do we cook it?
Bake it. Mother wipes the counter with a damp sponge. But not yet. It must rise.
To the sky?
Only to the top of the bowl.
I'm disappointed. I want to see the dough swell and grow, like a hot air balloon. My mother unties the towel from my neck, dampens it beneath the faucet. Let me see your hands. I offer them to her, and she scrubs away the dried-on dough, so like paste, flaky and near-white between my fingers. Then she kisses my palms and says, Go play.
The kitchen is stuffy with our labor and the preheating oven. The neighbor children laugh outside; I can see one of them in a navy blue snowsuit, dragging a plastic toboggan up the embankment made by the snow plow. But I stay. I want to be kissed again and washed with warm water. I want my mother's hands on me, tender and strong at the same time, shaping me as she does the bread.
* * *
I watch their hands, thinking I may be the one to discover the next Lionel Poilâne, as if the knowledge of bread were some sort of gifting imbued before birth. Instead, I see only kindergarteners clumsily stretching the pizza dough, ripping great holes I try to fix for them, saying, "Don't worry, the cheese will cover it." Seven of them from the Montessori school in town, along with their young teacher, stand at the long farm table at the back of Wild Rise, white paper chef hats perched atop their heads. That's one of their favorite things about the cooking class, their names written around the band in black Magic Marker. They spread cornmeal over their pizza peels as if feeding chickens, flicking their wrists, granules bouncing everywhere.
The sauce is next. "You only need a little," I tell them as they splash spoonfuls onto the raw crusts, their shredded mozzarella cheese floating in a puddle of red. Most of the children add pepperoni in a smiley-face pattern, and then my apprentice, Gretchen, gathers the peels for baking.
"How long before it's done?" they want to know.
"About ten minutes," I say. "Until then, who can tell me something about bread? It can be something you learned today, or even something you already had tucked in your brain." I tap my index finger against my temple as I say those last four words, one word for each beat. The children laugh and waggle their hands in the air, above their heads. I begin by motioning to a petite, flame-haired girl.
"Bread can be made from beans and nuts," she says.
"I'm allergic to nuts," the girl next to her whines, her flat face pink and indignant.
"Ooh, ooh, ooh, pick me," the dark-eyed boy at the end of the table calls out. He's bigger than the other children, and his thick brows meet in the middle.
"Yes ... Kalel," I say, reading his hat.
He clears his throat and stands. "Yeasts go into bread at the start. The more they eat, the more they—"
"Thank you, Kalel," the teacher says, but the other children have already filled in the missing word. They giggle and whisper to one another.
I give the teacher a sideways look. "He's six?"
"Seven. He started school a year later," she says, voice puckering with familiar exasperation.
I gather the remaining answers, calling each child by name. The last girl to respond—Cecelia—says, "Jesus fed lots of people with only five loaves of bread."
More nudging and tittering. Cecelia melts into her chair, reaches behind her shoulder to find the end of her long, blond braid, and sticks it in her mouth.
"Who wants to eat?" Gretchen asks, returning from the kitchen with seven plates. She remembers who belongs to which pizza and warns them to wait for their food to cool. "There's nothing worse than burning your tongue on hot cheese."
The children drink fresh-squeezed lemonade, slurping the last drops from the bottom of the cups and scooping out the ice to eat, some with their fingers, some with their straws. Kalel uses a fork. Gretchen and I slice their pizza into wedges. The two boys sit at one end of the table. Four of the girls huddle together in the center, so close their elbows keep tangling. And Cecelia at the other end, alone.
"I liked your answer," I tell her, taking the chair between her and the gaggle of girls, my body a fortification between her and the others.
Her hazel eyes shine. "Really?"
"I learned that in Sunday school last time I went."
A customer comes into the bakehouse. Elise Braden, devoted librarian and Thursday regular, because she loves the Anadama sandwich loaves sold only one day each week. I make twelve and she buys three. "I don't know why you can't have them all the time, Liesl," she says as she hands me eleven dollars.
"Because I'm only one person," I say, giving her two quarters change.
Elise Braden grins. "You could hire better help."
"Hey, I heard that," Gretchen calls from the back of the shop. She's soaking up spilled lemonade from beneath Kalel's pendulous sneakers. "I'm wounded. I thought I was your favorite library patron."
"Convince Liesl to have this bread every day and you will be. And," the slightly stooped woman says, "I'll cancel your overdue fines."
"You don't need it every day," I say. "You buy plenty of it to last all week."
"Ah, yes. But it tastes much better fresh."
A few more patrons come for lunch. I wait on them, though it's usually Gretchen's job. She relates better with the students, no matter the ages, stepping into their worlds, drawing them out, connecting. Perhaps it's her college coursework in anthropology. Perhaps it's who she is, relaxed and round and fizzy. I have too many angles for people to get close.
It's one thirty when the kindergarten class finishes eating. I thank them for coming on the field trip and give them each a loaf of chocolate sourdough to take home with them. I pack the bread in paper bags. Six of them are printed with the shop's name in the center. The seventh has the words I am the Bread of Life stamped in front of a simple line drawing of two umber ears of wheat. I give that bag to Cecelia.
* * *
Until the most recent of human history, bread came with a price. Touted as simple wholesomeness, it is deceptive in its humility, requiring more painstaking labor than any other basic food. Fruit and vegetables are planted and harvested, and some indigenous types require only to be picked off the vine before eating. And while it's true meat animals must be raised and fed and cared for before slaughter, the option of wild game exists. Milk flows and is consumed, pasteurization a relatively newfangled innovation good for increasing shelf life but not required for drinking. But bread has no raw form. It begins as seed sown, the grasses then reaped, the grains threshed, winnowed, ground, sifted, kneaded, fermented, formed, and baked. Modern home cooks think nothing of tearing open a bag of silken flour and a package of active dry yeast, and pouring the dry ingredients into a machine with a couple measures of water and a two-hour wait for a fresh loaf. Bread's dark history is unknown to them.
And the sacrifice.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken.
What can man do but toil under Eden's ruin? Those who work the fields know of the stinging sun, the dust in their nostrils, the ripping of soil to create a warm, dark cradle for each seed. And when the wheat grows tall and gold, the reaping comes, sheaves cut and tied. Early wheat is hulled, the grains imprisoned in toughened glumes requiring extra pounding to free them. Threshers beat the wheat with a flail, or oxen walk round and round over it, loosening the husks. This chaff must be blown away during winnowing, by fan or fork, leaving behind the heavier grains.
The first millers, almost exclusively women, kneel on the ground, scrubbing one stone against another, the naked wheat between them crushed into meal. The marrow of men. And the woman who grinds it stretches her body long, ankles deformed by her work, her belly in the dirt like the cursed serpent who began her misery so long ago.
* * *
Wild Rise closes at three. I lock the door and flip the sign. Gretchen cashes out the register and we pack the unsold bread—fourteen loaves today—into paper sacks bearing the Bread of Life ministry logo. Those go into a large plastic trash bag. Someone from First Baptist will pick them up early tomorrow and distribute them to those in need.
We both go to the kitchen. Tee is there, simmering tomorrow's soups. She always makes them a day ahead because, according to her, the flavors need at least twenty-four hours to marry.
I hadn't wanted food served at my bakery. To me, bread is bread. There's a purity to it, a dense completeness that nourishes all on its own. A food that began as an accident. Perhaps a bowl of ground barley and water left too long in the afternoon sun, baked flat and chewy. A portable food, and with the domestication of grain, a convenience food, made at home, without the effort required of hunting game or gathering fruits. Bread built the first cities, established cultures, drew people into community. It was buried with Pharaohs and dug from the ashes of Mount Vesuvius, perfectly petrified loaves, gray and hard as stone. It survives.
Those credentials don't need a side dish.
But three weeks after I opened, Tee showed up with her tiny John Lennon spectacles and short cropped hair and declared in her Ukrainian accent, "You need soup."
"I have some. You try." She opened the basket she carried and gave me a warm container. "Try. Try."
I uncovered the paper carton and blew on the steaming liquid. Then I took a sip. The subtle sting of cumin and mellowness of sweet potato coated my throat as it slid to my stomach. I closed my eyes and exhaled an involuntary sigh.
"Ah, good. You see. We serve it in a little baby boule." She indicated the size with her cupped hands. "Everyone will love, eh?"
So I hired her.
"What's on the menu for tomorrow?" I ask.
"Celery root soup with bacon and green apple. And bean and Swiss chard."
"Why don't you ever do something normal, like chicken noodle?" Gretchen asks.
"If you want that, buy a can," Tee says, stirring the creamy goodness in her speckled enamelware pot.
Gretchen begins preparing for the morning. I hover, watching, though by now she knows what to do. She'll make the dough for the soup boules, challah, sticky buns, and Friday's featured sandwich loaf, cinnamon raisin. I start the poolish—a pre-fermented dough—for my own seven-grain Rustica as she weighs the flour and fills the stand mixer. The machine wheezes, rocking a little too much, as it spins the ingredients together. It's old and will need to be replaced soon. Vintage, Gretchen calls it. My early morning bakery help, Xavier, calls it a piece of junk.
I can feel when the dough has been kneaded enough. But Gretchen, still unsure, stops the mixer and pulls out a small piece. She stretches it, holding it toward the light, and a perfect thin membrane appears. The gluten window. It's beautiful, milky, the late afternoon light caught in the elastic strands of protein.
"Looks good," I say.
We work without speaking, only the sounds of the machines, the pot lid, the cooler door opening and closing. Some days one of us remembers to switch on the radio, but not today. At four Tee goes home. Gretchen's shift lasts another hour and her day is finished as well. But she stays longer, as she sometimes does, telling me about the graduate class she's taking online, about what a total bummer it is to still be living with her parents at twenty-four, and about her plans to go to the movies with friends tomorrow night. Then she says, "You've seen that Bake-Off show, right? The one with Jonathan Scott?"
"Yeah, a few minutes here and there." I'm distracted, reading my notes, following a checklist even after three years in business. I still fear forgetting a step, or an entire bread. Each tick of the box is a pinprick in my billowing anxiety, releasing it so I won't explode. Baguette dough next. Flour, salt, and yeast first.
"Do you like it?"
I shrug, thermometer in a bowl of water. Perfect at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I add it to the flour mixture. "It's fine, I guess."
"Have you ever thought about being on it?"
"No," I say with a snort. "Why would I?"
"I don't know," Gretchen says, and then runs her hand over her mouth while continuing to speak, mashing her words back against her lips.
I stop. "What?"
"I said, promise not to fire me."
"Gretchen, what in the world were you thinking?"
She throws her hands up. "I don't know. I was watching a few weeks ago and there was this lady on, baking these rather anemic bagels, all pale and puffy and misshapen, and I was like, 'Liesl could do so much better than that!' So I checked out the website, and all I had to do was fill out a form and attach a couple photos and, well ... tell me you're not too angry."
"Don't worry. Do you know how many bakeries probably apply to be on that show? There's little to no chance they'll pick us. So you're safe." I smirk. "But if Jonathan Scott does come calling, then I'll fire you."
Gretchen laughs with me. "I'd gladly be fired for a chance to meet him. Even you can't help but notice how stinking good looking he is."
"Get out of here. I don't pay overtime."
Quiet now, alone, I add wood to the oven, a blend of oak and cherry. It will burn all night, until Xavier comes at three a.m. to extinguish it, enough heat held in the bricks to bake all morning. On the proofing table, four troughs of dough wait for me. They're for my wild yeast breads—sourdoughs—and I let no one work with them but me. The starter I use is more than eighty years old, cultured by my grandmother and brought from Germany when she came here, widowed, her nine-year-old daughter in tow. Even when I wasn't baking—running from the memory of bread, of my mother, of the warm, brown scent I associated with everything I'd lost in my life—I still kept that starter in a jar in the back of my refrigerator and fed it. Sometimes not as often as I should; once half a year passed before I unscrewed the lid and mixed fresh flour in with the pungent, yeasty slime it had become. And there was a time when I needed to leave it in foster care for an extended period. But I always came back to it, and it always resurrected, those not-quite-animal, not-quite-plant organisms waking to feed again. So I covet this part of the bread making, each loaf imprinted with a bit of my mother's soul.
Excerpted from Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish. Copyright © 2013 Christa Parrish. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think that the author had an idea about how to write a spiritual book and found the way through fiction. I enjoyed this novel but i can not say how to classify it either. Every time she wrote about the main character, i fly through the pages. But then she peppered the next few with history of bread and Jesus being the Bread of Life. I also think it may have been better served by being two books and i agree also that it leaves you hanging with a rushed ending. Not sure if id read this author again.
Christa Parrish in her new book “Stones For Bread” published by Thomas Nelson takes us into the life of Liesl McNamara. From the back cover: A solitary artisan. A legacy of bread-baking. And one secret that could collapse her entire identity. Liesl McNamara’s life can be described in one word: bread. From her earliest memory, her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and the importance of this deceptively simple food. And now, as the owner of Wild Rise bake house, Liesl spends every day up to her elbows in dough, nourishing and perfecting her craft. But the simple life she has cultivated is becoming quite complicated. Her head baker brings his troubled grandson into the bakeshop as an apprentice. Her waitress submits Liesl’s recipes to a popular cable cooking show. And the man who delivers her flour—a single father with strange culinary habits—seems determined to win Liesl’s affection. When Wild Rise is featured on television, her quiet existence appears a thing of the past. And then a phone call from a woman claiming to be her half-sister forces Liesl to confront long-hidden secrets in her family’s past. With her precious heritage crumbling around her, the baker must make a choice: allow herself to be buried in detachment and remorse, or take a leap of faith into a new life. Filled with both spiritual and literal nourishment, Stones for Bread provides a feast for the senses from award-winning author Christa Parrish. Liesl bakes bread for a living. Bread is a symbol for life. However Liesl really doesn’t have much of a life. then people invade her life. First there is little Cecelia. Then it turns out her father is the man who delivers flour to the bakery. Liesl’s bakery is featured on T.V. prompting her half-sister to contact her. Other people give us life, make us change, give us love. This is a book about what is important in life: family, faith and forgiveness. Ms. Parrish knows how to create characters that live on the page and that we get to know and love. Get ready for an interesting read that will keep you emotionally involved. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Liesl is a girl who did not have the easy childhood and at the beginning of each chapter the reader is given a chronological glimpse into the things that she had to overcome to become a successful woman who owns her own bakery. Liesl has some employees at the bakery who each provide extra plotlines and interesting things to the backend of the bakery. I fell in love with Liesl's story and wanted to hear more about her backstory and how she became the woman she was and find out her reasoning for being so hesitant. I also would love a book that centered around Jude from the bakery to see where he is now and how things are going for him.
It's difficult not to get hungry while reading this book thanks to mentions of hearty sausage dill soup, chocolate sourdough bread, and sticky buns and with recipes sprinkled throughout the story. But your sweet tooth may not be satisfied if you prefer a more straight-forward storyline vs. a more abstract one. Liesl McNamara owns a bakery, developing a love of and skill for baking from her mother and grandmother. "Stones for Bread," which is narrated by Liesl, alternates between the present day, where Liesl is dealing with being on a reality TV baking program (a la the Food Network) and a budding relationship with new resident Seamus Tate, and Liesl's childhood, including her mother's suicide. The author clearly cuts between the past and present, and her manner of storytelling is both poignant and amusing. However, her writing also is a bit more abstract than I prefer, which left me wanting as I was reading. Many people, though, will enjoy this style. If the plot intrigues you, I say read this book, but if you're looking for a classic love story, it may leave you wanting. Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Thomas Nelson.
Stones for Bread is an enchanting, emotional, story about Liesl McNamara. Written in first person present tense, we get an intimate look at Liesl's introverted personality and the events that led to who she is presently. All this while we watch her change and bloom and overcome her traumatic past. Liesl isn't like the many characters I meet on a weekly basis, she stands out. She loves her routine and likes the amount of control she has over her business. She likes certainty. In this aspect at least, I can relate to her. This is going to sound strange, but this book reminds me of the movie Chocolat. Not because of the characters or even the setting, but because of the heart and soul of making bread passed down from mother to daughter on Liesl's mother's side. In Chocolat, Vianne and her daughter, Anouk, open a chocolate shop. The recipe Vianne uses has been passed down in her family for ages. Chocolat and Stones for Bread are very different in all other ways, but the familiar legacy is similar. I really liked that. Throughout the novel, Parrish offers us Liesl's recipes. I loved this! In fact I plan on trying Cecilia's chocolate bread soon. I don't normally say this, but I felt like I learned quite a bit about the art of bread making. Parrish gives us this information without boring us, something that could be a big concern for some people. Will I, personally, put it to use? I'm not sure. I recommend this book to readers sixteen and older for self-harming and a suicide (I'd say more on this, but... spoilers!). Parrish weaves Christianity into this story in a fabulous, unexpected way; especially because Liesl was never a big church goer at the beginning of the story. I received this book from Booksneeze in return for an honest review of my opinions, which I have done. Thanks!!
This was a new author for me and I was very pleased with this book and look forward to reading more books by her. I think Liesl is a very strong woman and her passion for baking really shines through in her story. Because of this I found myself not wanting to put the book down. You will find yourself wanting to read more about Liesl's life and how she gets through all of the things going on. Another thing that was enjoyable to me was the use of bread and baking throughout the book was a neat thing. I like how it was infused throughout. It was nice that there were bread recipes included as well. I will have to try the out as they sound really good. I highly recommend this book.
Liesl McNamara was a bread maker by trade but it was more than that. Making bread was a family tradition that was passed from generation to generation. She learned to make bread at the hands of her mother and grandmother, Oma, from the time she was a little girl. When she found her mother dead at the age of only thirteen, Liesl closed herself off from the world eventually turning to bread making as an escape from the memories that haunted her. Now, years later, she hides from the past in her bake house, Wild Rise. Because her apprentice sends in an application for the TV show Bake-Off, Liesl sons finds herself in the middle of production with some hard decisions to make. But a little girl and her father have worked their way into her life and heart and Liesl has to decide if she is willing to let go of the past and look toward the future. Seamus Tate is the new flour delivery man for Wild Rise bake house. After his wife walked out he found himself as a single father trying to raise a six year-old alone. When his daughter, Cecelia, becomes attached to the bakery owner he soon finds himself becoming attached to her as well. Liesl has worked her way into his heart and when his mother becomes ill and needs constant care Seamus has no choice but to return to Tennessee. Is his love enough for Liesl? Can she give up the one thing she has always used as a balm to her wounds? Or will she give up the only true love she has ever known? I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this book. I like for a book to wrap itself around me until I feel like I am a part of the story and I just didn't feel that with this book. I love the traditions ingrained in Liesl's family. The bread making that was passed from generation to generation is something to be admired because it brought a closeness between Liesl, her mother and grandmother. Bread making was their solace and that is a beautiful thing. There are a lot of descriptions on bread and bread making all throughout the story. So much so that I feel like bread makers will be more likely to get the most out of the story. I loved her mix matched "family" though. They are described on page 211 like this, "...odd, growing Wild Rise family of immigrants, high school dropouts, nerdy engineers, flirty artists, fundamentalist farm girls, and everyone else." This is such an accurate description and you can't help but love the characters. Xavier and Tee especially. It also covered an issue that is seldom discussed and that is, self-inflicted pain. Kids often inflict pain upon themselves as a way of dealing with the problems going on in their lives. In Liesl's case she would beat her legs with a hairbrush until she was black and blue. I feel it's a problem that should be addressed more and I give a thumbs up to Christa Parrish for bringing it to light. I am a romance junkie at heart, though, and I feel like the one thing I love took a backseat to everything else. The romance between Liesl and Seamus was slow in developing and I really like that but I wanted to read more about it. I wish it had been woven into the story more often. Seamus was such a sweet, teddy bear of a man and I would like to have seen more of him. Also, all throughout the book the story would just stop and there would be a section connecting Jesus, the Bread of Life, to the bread we consume daily and then the story would resume where it left off. While I completely agree with this theological concept, it somehow seemed misplaced for me. I'm still struggling with how to classify this book as well. Is it romance, self-help or women's fiction maybe? I'll let you be the judge. I also feel like there was a loose end. I like my books all tied up in neat little packages but I felt like there was a loose thread left hanging. If you are a romance junkie like I am, while you might like the sense of family this book evokes, you may not love the story as a whole quite as much. However, if you are a bread enthusiast I do recommend it as you will most likely love it because it has a lot of references to and instructions on bread and bread making and it also includes several recipes. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine and mine alone. I received no monetary compensation for this review.
Stones For Bread is a poignant story that follows the generational legacy of bread making in Liesl McNamara's family that began with her grandmother, passed down to her mother, then on to her. It is a story that interweaves the fond childhood memories of baking bread with her grandmother and mother, with the tragic moments that occur in her life, and through it all bread has been the bonding element in Liesl's life. Now as an adult Liesl's world consists of everything bread as the owner/baker of Wild Rise, a bake house in Vermont. But Liesl's uncomplicated solitary life is about to change when one of her assistants enters Liesl in the reality show, Bake Off; and she unexpectedly meets Seamus, a divorced man and his six year old daughter Cecelia. As her business grows from the publicity of being on the reality show, Liesl believes that she has gotten everything she has ever wanted, until a mysterious woman calls claiming to be her half-sister, revealing a devastating family secret that shatters Liesl's world, leaving her to question everything about her life and family. Author Christa Parrish weaves a wonderful tale written in the first person narrative that follows Liesl McNamara's emotional personal journey of discovering the meaning of life and love, alternating between the present and her childhood past, and lovingly interwoven with the generational legacy of baking bread. While the main focus of the story revolves around Liesl's personal journey, I loved how the author seamlessly interwove her story with the fascinating history of the art of breading making. It is a wonderful story of life, family, and love all revolving around the bond that is created from the art of bread making, that provides nourishment for our heart and soul. As an added bonus, the author includes delectable recipes that had my mouth watering and desiring some freshly made warm Artisan bread with strawberry jam. You can't help but get drawn into Liesl's life, she is a complicated woman with a past that includes happy and tragic memories, who lives a solitary and uncomplicated life revolving around baking bread, until an unexpected meeting with a divorced man and his daughter shakes up her world, coupled with learning to accept the growing notoriety of her bake shop due to the appearance on the reality show, that will notably change and reshape Liesl's world. I really enjoyed following Liesl on her personal journey of self discovery, it was inspiring and emotional to see how her story unfolds in a way that she is finally able to let go of the past, grow, open up and embrace life and relationships. Stones For Bread is a warmhearted and touching story that will pull at your heartstrings, while providing a fascinating and soul nourishing lesson on the art of bread making.
Learning about Liesl was fascinating. I also loved how Christa brought in not only Liesl's history as a child and what incidents and thoughts made her into the woman she is today, but also some of the history of bread from ancient times. The way Liesl makes her bread is captivating...using live yeast instead of the commercial type, and the experimenting she does with her doughs. All of it is very different from the way today's bakeries do it. Her employees are not so much employees as they are her family, with her regular customers each being very special to her. The other intriguing part of this book is the detailed instructions of some of the bread recipes that are included. A story that portrays relationships between women, employees and their bosses, mothers and daughters, and daughters and their fathers, and much more. A very powerful story told with talent. Feel the dough stuck onto your hands, smell the freshly baked bread, let the taste burst on your tongue. Well written, and an amazing story. Although not a suspense story, the reader will find that the pages turn quickly as you try to find out what Liesl will do next. Thank you to Amy Lathrop at Litfuse Publicity Group, Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. I received this book free in exchange for an honest opinion. A positive critique was not required. The opinions are my own.
I received a copy of STONES FOR BREAD by Christa Parrish from Thomas Nelson via BookSneeze. The opinions I have expressed are strictly my own, and receving this book did not mean I had to make a favorable review. With that said… This was a heartwarming book, both inside and out, and by that I mean that I smiled through every page and then made myself some bread in the bread maker. I haven’t felt inclined to do that in many a moon. The main character, Liesl, comes from a family of bread makers. Her entire life seems to revolve around bread – boy, did that make me hungry! It is a quiet existence of peace and security. In a way, it is the life everyone needs but not everyone hopes for. Then – and of course you knew something had to get in the way of that – life gets more complicated for Liesl. My favorite of those things happens to be a mysterious woman who says she’s Liesl’s half-sister. I enjoyed how well this book explored faith in God; sometimes, religious fiction only touches upon that topic, but this one dove right in and left me feeling complete. I will keep my eyes open for other books by Christa Parrish.
"Alexandre Dumas, père, wrote of bakers: In Paris today millions of pounds of bread are sold daily, made during the previous night by those strange, half-naked beings one glimpses through cellar windows, whose wild-seeming cries floating out of those depths always makes a painful impression. In the morning, one sees these pale men, still white with flour, carrying a loaf under one arm, going off to rest and gather new strength to renew their had and useful labor when night comes again. I have always highly esteemed the brave and humble workers who labor all night to produce those soft but crusty loaves that look more like cake than bread... It is bread that keeps them alive. Give us this day our daily bread, they pray, and they praise the Almighty for it. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. So, I pack the bread in bags, like I will for any paying customer. I don't send burnt loaves or stale loaves, or any kitchen experiment I don't believe is quality enough to sell. I will not give to the least of these anything I will not offer to my Lord, should he walk into Wild Rise one afternoon and ask for a little something to eat. The secrets of baking have, until relatively recently, always been passed from mother to daughter. I was young, eight perhaps, when my own mother tied her apron around my waist and told me it was time for me to show her how much of what she taught me I remembered. It was time for me to make my first loaf without help or instruction. No recipes. Just my senses. And I did. It was a square loaf of wheat bread. A little too dense. A little too brown. But we ate it at supper that night, my father, my mother, and I, with butter and salt, rewarmed in the oven. And my mother said to me, "You're now the keeper of bread." It was my right of passage." In the novel Stones for Bread, author Christa Parrish takes the readers into much more than a contemporary story about the art of making bread. She touches those warm places within our hearts that sense more to bread than just what we eat. It becomes part of who we are and provides nourishment to both the heart and soul of those we make it for. It is a piece of ourselves. The story is based around the life of Liesl McNamara, owner and baker at Wild Rise, a bake house in Vermont. Her's is a story of the generations of bread bakers beginning with her grandmother and mother til finally resting within herself. The story winds its way into Liesl's tragic childhood and culminates with her being entered in a reality show called Baked Off by one of her employees. Woven in between are the mouth-watering recipes of 11 Artisan Bread that you will find takes time to make just perfect but well worth the effort. This is simply a story to be experienced and enjoyed from cover to cover and trust me, you'll never look at a loaf of bread the same again. I rate this one a 4 out of 5 stars. I received Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish compliments of Thomas Nelson Publishers and Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own.
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 this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.