Review: Friendship Bread, Darien Gee

| 27 May , 2011 | 12 Replies

Diane Sexton

The smell of freshly baked bread, a hint of cinnamon, the kindness of strangers … how can you resist Darien Gee’s Friendship Bread, a novel set in the fictional small town of Avalon, Illinois. The eponymous Friendship Bread is normally delivered with a bag of suspicious-looking starter culture, sourdough in a ziploc, that with some care and attention will, in time, yield two loaves of bread and three bags of starter to pass out to friends. Just like a chain letter, the bags of starter can be fun, but all too soon can lead to your friends and neighbours shunning you and all manner of awkward encounters. Still, for three women in Avalon, the bread starts another reaction – becoming the hub of a network of love, support, reconciliation, and – yes, friendship – that eventually encompasses the whole town.

Julia is recovering from the loss of her son Josh, in a terrible accident. She has pushed away family, friends and work in her reluctance to move on. Even her husband, Mark, is unable to penetrate her defences. For Julia, an anonymous present of Friendship Bread and starter is a little nudge towards opening up, delivered at just the right time. Madeline has opened a tea-shop in Avalon to try and bury her regrets in a new town. Hannah, one-time professional cellist, who has moved to Avalon from Chicago at her husband’s insistence, is slowly realising that her marriage doesn’t seem to be working out with her husband still resident in Chicago. The three women meet one afternoon in Madeline’s tea shop and over tea and Friendship Bread starter, they form strong bonds that slowly heal each other’s wounds. There are some touching moments and some laugh-out-loud funny moments, such as when the local reporter calculates that in just over 2 months there would be over 4,000 bags of starter culture in the town.

The Amish Friendship Bread story is not new, while it may have nothing to do with the Amish, but the idea of a sweet yeasty sourdough loaf delivered in times of need, and the starter to make and share, is heartwarming. The message of a living symbol of friendship (the starter culture) with its reminders to take a little action each day, is a slow-time focus on friendship that is welcome if you’re lost in the online (or even offline) world. Darien Gee’s story is simple, unsurprising, but very very satisfying – kind of like Friendship Bread itself. And thankfully, Darien has included the recipe to make your own starter in the back of the book.

I’ll let you know if the bread turns out as delicious as she says – because now I have my own starter culture sitting in my kitchen. Watch out friends and family, sourdough culture is coming your way!

Available now, Allen & Unwin RRP$27.99 and visit their website for lots of yummy recipes and good ol’ fashioned fun:


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Category: Books

Comments (12)

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  1. Catherine Caseri says:

    I can’t wait to get a copy of this book. Just as the bread is fantastic so this book looks that way. What a heart warming story.

  2. Flossie Stryker says:

    I would so love to have this book. I have an extensive collection of books by those who write about the Amish. i would love to add this to my ever growing library. Would love to try the recipes too.

  3. Lee Ann Falconi says:

    I loved reading your review. I have not purchased or read Darien’s book yet. I hope to own a copy very soon. I do visit her website quite often. I was lucky enough to recieve a bag of starter from my daughter months ago. I turn to her site for new ways to play with my food. Diane, I wish you great success with your baking and suggest that visit Darien’s website
    for inspiration and wonderful ideas. I have also bookmarked your site, it looks like something I will truly enjoy.

  4. Glenda Thomas says:

    Love the book!!

  5. Deborah Lawson says:

    Awesome must read book, I have read it twice now, sharing my copy with friends as well as gave my best friend and daughter each a book to read and share. The friendship bread is so moist and yummy. I would love to have this version of the book. Don’t forget to check out for recipes.

  6. Christina Rose says:

    What a fabulous review of a timeless story of ‘simplicity bringing people together’. I can’t wait to read the Australian edition now. ☺

  7. Kelly says:

    I have been reading this book and have enjoyed every minute so far. I enjoyed your review on the book.

  8. beckie thompson says:

    i have not read this but would love to. i love to read, and would like to win this book!!!!

  9. Christa says:

    I am so excited to be able to read Darien Gee’s new book friendship bread,,i live in Ohio in the heart of Amish country and it is my favorite place to go and spend time.I have received and given Amish friendship bread starter many times in the last 20 yrs.I was so excited to find on her Facebook page so many new recipes and ways to use this i never knew about! i want to read this book and share it with a younger generation of people to pass down this community bonding tradition.

  10. SusieQTpies says:

    Love your review! I’m in the USA and read the book already. The recipes are very tasty and I can’t wait to hear how your starter and baking turns out for you! Have fun with it!

  11. runner10 says:

    I can’t wait to read Friendship Bread.

  12. J. Ter Louw says:

    Friendship Bread By Darien Gee Published By Allen and Unwin. One of the best summer reads you’ll find. Fall in love with the characters, fall in love with baking.

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