2 December 2013

Review: Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish

Outstanding Christian Literary Novel

Liesl McNamara is the owner of Wild Rise, a specialty bakery in a small town in Vermont. The story is told on three different levels. This should be distracting, but somehow it isn’t (that could be because I’m a fact and history nut). The main story is that of Liesl, an only child who has inherited a love of breadmaking from her German mother and Oma (grandmother).

This main story of Stones for Breadis interspersed with stories from Liesl’s past—happy stories about her learning the art of breadmaking, and sadder stories of grief and loss. The third story is the place of bread in history—the labour required to produce a single loaf of bread is astounding, as is the role of bread in history. All are written in the first person, from Liesl’s viewpoint. There are also recipes linking to the story.

Our initial impression of Liesl is of a competent professional woman, but as the stories progress, we start to see her as a damaged individual with deep issues. She makes bread, in part, because that’s something she is able to control—unlike life. There are some painful and poignant insights into Liesl, into humanity, and into why we find it difficult to submit to God.

Christian fiction mostly stays within strict genre definitions. A novel might be a romance or romantic suspense or a thriller or Amish, but it’s definable. This is less so, and with a focus more on the internal journey of Liesl. This, combined with the threefold plot, the recipes and the beautiful use of language is why Stones for Bread doesn’t sit comfortably in any genre.

It is not romance, although there is a romantic element. It is not action or suspense. The closest definition is women’s fiction, but even that runs the risk of missing something. Sure, this is the story of one woman and there are elements all women will find familiar, but there is something more, and it’s that something that raises this book above average, above what I normally find in Christian fiction.

I didn’t read the recipes. I read the first one and thank God I don’t have to put this level of effort into putting bread on the table for my family. Sure, even the fresh baked in-store bread from my local supermarket or bakery doesn’t match up to what Liesl sells at Wild Rise, but I know I’m never going to put that level of effort into baking a loaf of bread. Maybe that’s my loss. Recommended.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze for providing a free ebook for review. You can find more about Christa Parrish at her website.

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