Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor

Daisy McCrae never imagined her life as it is right now. She's lost her job as a financial manager, broken up with her fiancé, and moved home to live in the tiny attic room above her family's bakery. She's trying to help untangle the bakery's finances and take some of the stress off of her family while she figures out where her life should go next. In this interim, Daisy would also like to find out something more about her mother, the woman who abandoned her at the bakery as a three year old.

This early abandonment has marked Daisy hard. She feels like she isn't a real McCrae even though the family formally adopted her and folded her into their hearts. She has a fairly tense relationship with her sisters and that makes her current situation in the bakery that much tougher. When a long time elderly customer who seems to know quite a bit about Daisy dies, she bequeaths an 1850s diary to Daisy without any word of explanation. Daisy has no idea why she's been given this historical document written by a slave girl named Susie when it's one of her sisters who is interested in history. The diary is, in fact, a treasure trove of history, personal and public, and it holds the answers to a lot of Daisy's questions, as she discovers as she delves deeper into its contents. It also brings the presence of a slightly malevolent feeling ghost into the bakery and into Daisy's attic in particular.

The insecurity that Daisy feels as a result of her abandonment and subsequent adoption is very well handled. The fact that she is loved and accepted in her family helps some but doesn't completely mitigate the result of the deep trauma on her. That she stays somewhat aloof and doesn't share important things in her life like her engagement and the subsequent breaking off of that engagement with her family is understandable given her feeling of outsider status. But the love and acceptance that the McCrae family offers her is unrelenting despite her holding back. The mystery of Daisy's origins is revealed slowly and tied into general history quite well. As Daisy learns about Susie and her connection not only to herself but to the McCrae family, she also learns more completely what it takes to be a fully fledged member of a loving family such as the McCraes.

The story was an interesting one with multiple threads running through it, the current day story, the historical angle, and the paranormal as well. Daisy's character is a sympathetic one, desperately wanting to fit in, mourning the loss of the man she loves, and trying to save the bakery despite the dire financial situation. The rest of the McCrae family isn't quite as fleshed out as Daisy is, perhaps a reflection of her own feeling of distance from them.  The paranormal element here is more of a distraction than a necessary piece of the plot.  This is the first in a planned series and there may be more plot and character development in future books and the paranormal may tie in more necessarily as well. A fast read, this tackles some deeper issues in an easy and engaging way.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. On the level of a character-driven story about healing and growth, this sounds very good, even if the paranormal elements don't really fit.


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