Darien Gee is the author of a new novel, Friendship Bread (2011 Ballantine Books). I discovered it after my friend Angel brought me a loaf of this delicious sweetbread she had baked herself.
Angel is a good friend. I love her home canned pickles, salsa, peaches, pears and tomato sauce. She never arrives at my door without some gift in her hand. When she brought the loaf of bread, she asked if I would be interested in a bag of “starter” to make my own. Because I have an intolerance for wheat and should avoid the sweets, I passed.
I had also heard about this Friendship Bread phenomena and likened it to a chain mail scheme. I just don’t do them.
Once a friend tried to convince me to participate in an underpanty pyramid. She sent the instructions to buy 10 pair of the prettiest underpants you could ever wish for and then send one pair to each of the women on a list she gave me with her name on the top. The promise of receiving hundreds of pairs of sexy undergarments in the mail every day seemed to be its own thrill. Having worn Hanes cotton briefs my entire adult life by preference, the prospect of some stranger sending stuff I would never wear or want made me break that chain.
Trying to keep bread starter tended for ten days consecutively with everything else I’ve got going on right now seemed stupid. No way. I can’t even remember to take antibiotic pills for 10 days straight. And me bake? It would be a waste.
A plastic bag full of fermenting goo that requires daily mashing is like a new pet. I have enough to take care of right now. So I passed on the baking opportunity. But when I read about this new novel coming out the same week Angel shared a loaf with me, I had to get it. I let Angel read it first and I just finished it.
It’s not about the bread. It’s about the friendships. Darien Gee creates a set of memorable characters. The ensemble cast of a small town community advances multiple storylines that weave in and out of their involvement with this rising batter. Edie is a young I cared about these people and found myself near the end weeping as a rift in the friendship between two sisters is repaired.
The town of Avalon, Illinois, is a central character in Edie’s attempt to write the news story of her career about how this basic batter for bread became the impetus to a better town.
This is a great beach read. Much better to read about baking; the only kind I want to do this summer is in the sun.