Baker's Secret (Kiernan)

The Baker's Secret 
Stephen P. Kiernan, 2017
350 pp.

From the multiple-award-winning, critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day.

On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country.

Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.

In the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers.

But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1960
Where—Newtonville, New York, USA
Education—B.A., Middlebury College; M..A. Johns Hopkins; M.F.A. Iowa Writers' Workshop
Awards—George Polk Award; Scripps Howard Award (both for journalism)
Currently—lives in Charlotte, Vermont

Stephen P. Kiernan is a journalist and author of five books: two nonfiction and three novels. He was born in Newtonville, New York, the sixth of seven children. He received his B.A. in 1982 from Middlebury College, his M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, and his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Kiernan has worked for more that 20 years as a journalist for the Burlington Free Press, Boston Globe, and AARP, among others. Those years have garnered him 40 awards, including the Gerald Loeb Award for financial journalism, the George Polk Award for medical reporting, and the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Freedom of Information Award. Stephan has also taught at Middlebury College and the New England Young Writer’s conference.

In much of his journalism and his nonfiction books Kiernan has become an advocate for health care, including hospice, palliative care, and advanced directives. His 2006 book, Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System, was written in the hopes of changing how people faced mortality. His 2010 work, Authentic Patriotism: Restoring America's Founding Ideals Through Selfless Action, championed the benefits, personal and societal, of greater civic engagement.

Keiernan turned to fiction in 2013 with The Curiosity. In 2015 he released The Hummingbird, and in 2017, The Baker's Secret. In addition to his writing, he has also performed on the guitar for many years. In addition to recording 3 CDs of solo instrumentals, he has composed music for dance, the stage, documentaries and TV specials. He lives in Charlotte, Vermont, with his two sons.

Book Reviews
(Starred review.) This moving and thought-provoking work of historical fiction will be popular with lovers of other recently popular World War II novels such as Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale. —Elizabeth Safford, Boxford Town Lib., MA
Library Journal

hile Europe awaits liberation from Hitler’s troops, one small Normandy village is held together by the resourcefulness of a 22-year-old woman with a talent for baguettes.… Evoking a not exactly unfamiliar chapter of 20th-century history, Kiernan succeeds in engagement but not much originality.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're made available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Baker's Secret…then take off on your own:

1. Out of the many, many books about World War II, is there anything in this onr that stands out—the character of Emma, perhaps? The treatment of the townspeople by the Nazi's?

2. What do you think of Emma? In what way is she an unlikely heroine? What skills does she possess that end up making her so effective as a resister? Would any of us have been so brave?

3. Talk about the other characters—Monkey Boy, Guillaume, Uncle Ezra, and the Monsignor—and the roles they played. Any favorites?

4. Vergers is a small village, where everyone knows everyone else and is aware of all the comings and goings. Is that closeness a boon or a danger to those involved in undermining the Nazis?

5. What about Michelle and her love affair with the German soldier? Was the price she paid fair…or too steep?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online of off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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