Review: The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor
THE UNION STREET BAKERY BY MARY ELLEN TAYLOR
Life can turn on a dime. It’s a common cliché, and I’d heard it often enough. People die or move away. Investments go south. Affairs end. Loved ones betray us…Stuff happens.
Daisy McCrae’s life is in tatters. She’s lost her job, broken up with her boyfriend, and has been reduced to living in the attic above her family’s store, the Union Street Bakery, while learning the business. Unfortunately, the bakery is in serious hardship. Making things worse is the constant feeling of not being a “real” McCrae since she was adopted as a child and has a less-than-perfect relationship with her two sisters.
Then a long-standing elderly customer passes away, and for some reason bequeaths Daisy a journal dating back to the 1850s, written by a slave girl named Susie. As she reads, Daisy learns more about her family—and her own heritage—than she ever dreamed. Haunted by dreams of the young Susie, who beckons Daisy to “find her,” she is compelled to look further into the past of the town and her family.
What she finds are the answers she has longed for her entire life, and a chance to begin again with the courage and desire she thought she lost for good.
What a magical little gem Taylor has written. THE UNION STREET BAKERY is the first novel in a three part series set in charming Old Town Alexandria, VA. Evoking memories of WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, THE NIGHT KITCHEN and FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, Taylor brings us a story that is Southern Gothic Light. Well written and timely, The Union Street Bakery introduces us to Daisy McRae and an admittedly early mid-life crisis.
The novel jumps around a bit as the story goes back and forth through history. The book’s layout would have benefited from some minor adjustments: adding a small map of the streets in Old Town that are mentioned in the book; adding a genealogy chart to help visualize the characters and their connections; and lastly, the recipes should have been interspersed thoughout the book.
I wanted to see Daisy make more of an effort to get to know her sisters and nieces. It was difficult to ascertain if she was simply so emotionally shut down that she could not think of anyone else beside herself or if she was simply self-involved? I would have loved to see the ghosts play some jokes in the bakery. And to my way of thinking, Miss Mabel’s story line was the most bizarre. She could have easily raised the child and didn’t. That is just bonkers and deserves to be explored.
The adoption story line is wonderful if at times cliche. But the moments between Daisy and her birth mother are heart wrenching.
I read an advanced reader copy that seemed to have errors when describing the ages of Mabel and her brothers. I’ve been told that these were corrected in the final version.
Over all, this is a perfect book club read. The topic is timely and the story full of diverse elements: ghosts; family relationships; family business; mysteries; adoption; a beautiful colonial setting; a historic mystery; and a love interest; all told in a first person perspective using down to earth language and touching experiences. Enough spice to either make you love Daisy or hate her – perfect for book club battles. And the recipes! Yumm!
THE UNION STREET BAKERY is now in stores.