Friendship Bread by Darien Gee

Friendship BreadOne day, Julia Evarts returns home from picking up her daughter Gracie to find a plate of what looks like banana bread, and a baggie full of something that seems to be fermenting. This thoughtful gesture comes anonymously, and that’s no surprise. Julia has been grieving the death of her son for nearly five years, and has turned away all attempts of comfort from friends and family.

Though Julia’s is the most profound, she is certainly not the only one who is facing loss of some kind. For her new friend Hannah, it’s the loss of a marriage. For Edie, it’s the loss of a career, and for Livvy, it’s the loss of her sister Julia. Julia is lost to her because her son had been in Livvy’s care when he died, and Julia can’t forgive her.

These are the central characters who, along with many others, give heart to their town of Avalon, Ill. The gooey substance in the bag on the porch is sourdough starter, and it multiplies with each use, causing the town to become nearly awash in the Amish Friendship Bread from is made from it. Even though many are turning away when they spy a well-intentioned neighbor heading their way with the ubiquitous baggie, there are others who see in this edible “chain letter” an opportunity to create lasting friendships.

The book is at times heartbreaking, but it is filled with those moments in life that give it meaning. The characters in Friendship Bread are fully realized, and author Darien Gee brings them lovingly to life. Readers will be a little homesick for Avalon when the story ends, but happily, the next book in the Avalon series in the works.

Ballantine Books/Random House; ISBN 978-0-34552-534-5; $25.
Friendship Bread: Discussion Questions