Book Review: Friendship Bread by Darien Gee

Every once in a while I stumble upon a book that is so good that I want to buy copies for everyone I know, because I don't know who to give it to first... Friendship Bread by Darien Gee is one of those books.

From the book jacket:

Friendship Bread: A NovelAn anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.
One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others.
Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread.  
When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, Illinois, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is laboring to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.
In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.
About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, Friendship Breadtells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

My review:
You need to get through the introductory chapters to really feel the essence of this book - at first I was afraid that it would fall into some of the traps that many authors do of introducing more characters than necessary, but once I started getting familiar with everyone, the characters came to life and were all so intrinsic to the book, I wouldn't have changed a thing.
This book had me going through the emotional ringer - I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I was overjoyed.  It's really amazing how the basic concept of sharing a loaf of bread and some starter became so much more in a book.  I love how the book brings so many people together who are at different points in their lives. It's amazing that women who have so much baggage can really find insight in the simple baking and sharing of bread... Over each person's 10 days of waiting for the starter to ferment, their lives changed and it was so interesting to see that transformation.
This book took some completely unpredictable turns and I can't wait for my friends to read it so we can discuss it in detail and I haven't even started to tell you about the recipes interwoven into the book... you'll just have to buy a copy to see what I mean.
I recommend this book whole heartedly and would also suggest that it would be great discussion at your next book club!  I also hope that Darien Gee continues to share the town of Avalon with us in future novels!

This book is currently available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and will be available at retailers on April 5, 2011.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book at no cost for the purpose of completing this review.  All opinions are my own.