Friday, 17 January 2014
Stones for Bread
Just read another delightful book from Booksneeze. I had it free for review and was, I thought, the best choice in a relatively uninspiring collection. One of those I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy. It looked a little dull and complicated, with recipes for bread posted at the end of every chapter: too much dough and not enough yeast.
Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish is a beguiling story of bread and grief and romance and re-creation. And a rediscovery of faith in the Bread of Life.
Liesl McNamara's life is centred on bread. Centred..on the legacy of the sourdough starter she inherited from her mother, her grandmother...on the bread she bakes to sell in her bakery...and, though she does not recognise it to start with, on the Bread of Life. She wrestles with questions as if kneading dough, bringing them to the surface and then pummelling them back down until they rise, as inevitably as yeast, again. There is a gentle rhythm and cadence to the novel as Liesl's childhood, her present business and her future romance weave together into a glorious challah bread of a story for Sundays and holy days and holidays. And soul hungry days.
Liesl wrestles with life: with the healing of memories, the difficulties of the present and the possibilities of the future. She gathers ingredients while friends and family cluster round her, integrating themselves gently into her life, as yeast permeates a rising dough.
Christa Parrish creates real characters who encounter real life issues. Mystery bubbles up through the rising dough of the plot, so subtly hinted at that it takes a second and third reading to notice the clues. Just as yeast dough seems to rise slowly at first before it bubbles up triumphantly, begging to be baked, so the story gathers momentum, until I found myself turning pages as greedily as if I was taking a bite of oven-warm bread.
This book satisfies the soul, yet leaves it hungry for more. I turned back again to the beginning, rereading and highlighting wonderful phrases with which I long to fill my mind. And then, of course, there are the recipes - so delicious that they will make a bread-maker of me yet...