Food is the salve for all hurts
About Baker's Blues by Judith Ryan Hendricks (Bread Alone Series, Book 3): In Wyn Morrison’s world a 5 AM phone call usually means problems at her bakery—equipment trouble or a first shift employee calling in sick—annoying but mundane, fixable. But the news she receives on a warm July morning is anything but mundane. Or fixable.
Mac, her ex-husband, is dead.
Ineligible for widowhood, Wyn is nonetheless shaken to her core as she discovers that the fact of divorce offers no immunity from grief. Friends and family are bewildered by her spiral into sadness, Mac’s daughter Skye blames her for his death.
For the last several years Wyn has been more businesswoman than baker, leaving the actual bread making to others. Now, as she takes up her place in the bread rotation once more, she will sift through her memories, coming to terms with Mac and his demons, with Skye’s anger, and with Alex, who was once more than a friend. Soon she will re-learn the lessons of bread that she first discovered at the Queen Street Bakery in Seattle…bread rises, pain fades, the heart heals, and the future waits.
My two centsFood permeates our lives. This book is a a testament to the healing power of food -- creating it, eating it, sharing in it. In the third book of the series Bread Alone), readers are drawn into the baking world of Wyn and her little circle, as her husband Mac battles depression.
I liked ...The fact this is a foodie read. I love to eat. It's the cure-all for everything, in my opinion. I'd choose a good meal over a new dress. Or a chocolate bar over a pill. So I naturally have a penchant for foodie reads though I admit that I don't seem to get enough of them in my reading fare lately.
The baking details and the cooking descriptions throughout this book are quite engrossing. I could almost imagine the smell of freshly baked bread! There is one bread baking scene in the earlier part of the book that I found informative and extremely inspiring: from waking up early, to the technicalities of the starter, the consistency and feel of bread, and lastly the sheer passion required for making delicious bread. I already have a profound appreciation for artisanal bread -- making bread is truly an art and a science.
The healing power of food is also an interesting angle explored throughout the novel. Wyn turns to food many times -- whether burying herself in her baking bread at her bakery, or indulging in a delicious meal -- as she goes through the challenging time of Mac's depression. These scenes are interwoven seamlessly into the narrative in a logical fashion so they become integral to the storyline.
Empathetic, balanced portrayal of characters in real-life issues. I was expecting this to be a fluffy foodie read but instead I got a rather in-depth peek into a husband and wife who are both impacted by depression, as well as their circle of family, friends, and colleagues. This was a surprise (initially unwelcome) until I realized that there was depth to it.
With more recent interest in raising awareness about mental health challenges, I thought Hendricks was able to present a balanced picture of depression from the viewpoints of the depressed persons as well as those close to the depressed.
A large part of the book deals with Wyn's viewpoint as the spouse; I understood her confusion and her frustration since she struggled to understand Mac but never really could. Being a fixer-upper type of person, the frustration level was even greater.
Meanwhile, indicated by font changes in the narrative, Mac's own recounting of his struggles were also illuminated. I rather disliked Mac at the onset of the novel but as a rounder fuller picture of the beginnings of his depression and the different stress points were presented, I agreed with (yet struggled with) Wyn's same conclusion that depression is no one's fault.
Other characters are also drawn into the dangerous pull of depression, which shows how complex and difficult depression is to deal with. A disintegrating marriage, tenuous relationships, a death, are probably the last things anyone wants to read about but these are unfortunate yet natural outcomes of depression.
Uh-ohsI decided I wanted in on this book tour based on the cover. And therein lies its strength and its weakness: Is it a foodie memoir? a cookbook? foodie fiction? a cozy? I must remember to read blurbs carefully.
This is the third book in a series. If you've read the first two books and loved them, I know you'll want to pick this up. For someone like me who has come in from the cold, the first part of this book was disorienting with a bevy of characters making their appearance. It took me a good 1/3rd of the book to make sense of it all (Wyn - female, right? Skye - male or female? CM - who is this person?) This can be a standalone read but Mac starts out as dead which is rather unnerving because everything told in his voice is all in retrospect! I can't expect anything else -nor should I-- from his character if there is a future book!
One thing that didn't sit quite right with me is that I lost steam close to the end of book. This is alternately a draining-uplifting read but I felt it was overly drawn out and it left me exhausted (or was this just catharsis for me? I've been down but never really depressed). I really didn't want to finish the last few chapters since what happened in them were already implied. Overkill in my opinion.
Verdict: This is an insightful novel about relationships impacted by depression. Alternately depressing and inspiring, and interspersed with plenty descriptions of the power of food to heal, I'd recommend this novel to foodie fiction lovers, women's fiction readers, and those who want a better understanding of the dynamics of depression.
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About Judith Ryan Hendricks
Armed with a degree in journalism, she worked as a journalist, copywriter, computer instructor, travel agent, waitress and baker before turning to fiction writing. Her experiences at the McGraw Street Bakery in Seattle led to her first novel, Bread Alone and the sequel, The Baker’s Apprentice.
A life-long infatuation with the Southwest provided inspiration for Isabel’s Daughter and her fourth book, The Laws of Harmony. Hendricks’ fiction has been translated into 12 languages and distributed in more than 16 countries worldwide.
Her nonfiction has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and Tiny Lights, A Journal of Personal Essay, Grand Gourmet in Italy and The London Sunday Express. Her short fiction has appeared in Woman’s Weekly in Britain and AMERICAN GIRLS ON THE TOWN, an anthology, in the U.S. and U.K.
She lives in New Mexico with husband Geoff and dog Blue.
Connect with Judi at her website, judihendricks.com.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in order to participate in this tour with an honest review. Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour here.