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By Bread Alone    by Sarah-Kate Lynch order for
By Bread Alone
by Sarah-Kate Lynch
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

The heady scent of fresh baked sourdough bread usually fills all six stories of Esme and Pog's towering home. Every day for years Esme has made bread from the starter she brought back from a romantic summer in France, when she was just nineteen. But the past month, due to tragedies both new and old, Esme has lost the desire to bake, and Pog doesn't know how to help her find herself again.

When she lived in France, Esme carried on an all-consuming relationship with Louis Lapoine, an artisan baker in the small village where she and her friend Charlie lived. Things eventually turned sour, but Esme has never forgotten the passion of her first love. Although she's happy in her marriage to Pog, life has become quite a burden and she longs for her carefree days of youth. A chance meeting with Louis leaves Esme to contemplate the path her life has taken and question her future. Will she abandon her home and family? Can she begin to bake again?

Esme is a wife and mother who has long looked back with a wistful what if. Her friends and family are worried that she is headed toward a breakdown, and as the different parts of her life are revealed it's obvious that many stronger people would have crumpled from the stress she has endured. Woven throughout the plot is the delicious aroma of baking bread and it's clear how much it means to Esme. Included at the end are recipes for sourdough starter and sourdough bread - both of which I tried as soon as I finished the book, with resounding success.

This is a novel that, like a good loaf of sourdough bread, takes time to consume. The story is a little confusing at first. The author gives the reader background in small bites, so it takes time to fully grasp the depth of emotion involved in this family's life. In fact, it's not until almost the end that all of the pieces are revealed and you can look back and understand what has driven Esme to do the things she does. The way the story is written may frustrate some readers, but I urge you to stick with it and take the revelations as they come.

Although there are dark portions in By Bread Alone, a hopeful tone and the true love of family and friends brings forth an uplifting conclusion.

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