I liked the premise of this novel – a reporter stumbles into a German bakery in Texas, hoping the owner will share her personal story of how Christmas was celebrated in her mother country. What follows is a reluctant unraveling of Elsie’s youth in Nazi Germany, as part of a Baker’s family, that struggles between their own values, allegiance to their country and simple survival.
At the same time, we hear about Reba’s (the reporter’s) personal life – her self-imposed distance from her own family and her difficulties with her boyfriend, who works for the U.S. Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas.
I believe the author was trying to show how good people are sometimes enlisted to do bad things, and in so doing, she invites a comparison between the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany and illegal immigrants in the United States. This part bothered me – because I felt it was comparing apples to oranges. To compare the two really takes something away from each. I wish McCoy had just focused on Elsie’s story.
Another issue I had with the book is I felt many times that the author created 21st century characters and placed them in the year 1944. As a person of German ancestry, I also felt that at times, Elsie and especially her mother, stepped out of character. German’s are notoriously tight-lipped. There are things they don’t and won’t say. For instance, there’s a part of the book where Elsie’s mother reveals something bad from her own past, and I found this to be unbelievable – especially since it was unnecessary.
Because it was a work of historical fiction dealing with World War II, I still enjoyed it, but there is room for improvement.
3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012