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Title:  Bread Alone

Author:  Judith Ryan Hendricks

Published:  May 28, 2002

Page Count:  368

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

My Rating:  4/5

The life of 31-year-old trophy wife Wynter Morrison suddenly changes course when her husband announces one evening that their marriage is over. Emotionally devastated and desperate for a change of scenery, Wyn moves to Seattle where she spends aimless hours at a local bakery, sipping coffee and inhaling the sweet aromas of freshly-made bread. These visits bring back memories of her long-ago apprenticeship at a French boulangerie, and when offered a position at the bakery, Wyn quickly accepts — hoping that the rituals of baking will help her move on.

Working long hours among the bakery’s cluster of eclectic women — Linda, the irascible bread baker; earth mother Ellen and her partner Diane; and Tyler, the blue-haired barista — Wyn awakens to the truths that she missed while living the good life in Hancock Park.

Soon Wyn discovers that making bread possesses an unexpected and wondrous healing power, helping her to rediscover that nothing stays the same… bread rises, pain fades, the heart heals, and the future beckons.

So a few months ago I read a book called The Laws of Harmony, by Judith Ryan Hendricks, an author I was completely unfamiliar with at the time, and just raved about it.  The book took me by surprise – I had no idea it would be as wonderful as it was, and I was just so happy to have been able to discover the book.  Needless to say, I’ve been itching to get my hands on some of Hendricks’ other books ever since.  Which is why, when I was notified by my library that Bread Alone was finally available (they have like two copies in my entire library district) I rushed right out to pick it up, then came home and cracked it open right away.  And I must say – I was pretty impressed by what I found inside.

I’m going to be honest when I say that I didn’t love Bread Alone like I loved The Laws of Harmony. I did, however, really enjoy Bread Alone and found it to be a solid debut novel by Hendricks.  Hendricks has this amazing ability to create entire communities for the reader to feel – I felt so entwined in Wyn’s new life, I felt like I was experiencing this town and its people with her, the author just did such a wonderful job showing me what Wyn’s life was like.  Hendricks created this same effect in The Laws of Harmony, and I was thrilled to feel that same sense of place with Bread Alone as well.

I also really enjoyed the characters of this novel.  At first, I was annoyed by Wyn – she was kind of spoiled, and when her marriage dissolved (which, by the way, she wasn’t even happy with when they were together), she just spent so much time and energy feeling sorry for herself –  I initially had a really hard time with her.  But when she started to do things on her own and find her true inner peace at the bakery, I started to understand her and care about her.  By the end of the novel, I felt a lot closer to Wyn and truly was happy with how the book ended in terms of where her character was at.  It’s the mark of a good storyteller that Hendricks made me feel this way – she wrote Wyn so well, I felt like I was reading about a real person.

I was pretty happy with the way the book ended – no cliffhangers, exactly, just an ending that made me glad there is a sequel.  And you better believe I’ll be putting the sequel, The Baker’s Apprentice, on hold at my library too!