Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish, ©2013

Filled with both spiritual and literal nourishment,
 Stones for Bread provides a feast for the
senses from award-winning author
Christa Parrish.
   Oma takes me on her lap and tells me of Germany, good Lutheran tales because my father is Irish and Catholic and she believes I learn nothing of the things I should.
Wes Brot ich ess, des Lied ich sing.
Whose bread I eat, His song I sing.
   --Stones for Bread, 13
Liesl McNamara. My maiden name is Irish too.

Hop on into this book and you will savor it! Like you are there hanging onto every thought, every motion. And the aroma of fresh baked bread ~ there on each and every page. I am the same age as Xavier.
   We pull loaves from the oven, Xavier shoveling them onto the peel, me catching them in the baskets and setting them on the racks. The air snaps with cooling crust, a symphony of dried twigs crunching beneath my feet, of cracking knuckles, of Rice Crispies. I'm home within that sound. ... Mastering formulas, not recipes, in the quest for the perfect loaf.
   --Ibid., 15-16
Liesl's Orange Chai Boule ~an excellent introduction to cold fermentation~
   --Ibid., 17
Everywhere I go, magic! Cold fermentation! I am for that. My trying to get just the right temp on my wrist still my bread loaf has a yeasty smell ~ and... you could bounce it off the counter and it wouldn't break open ~ too thick a crust. I have so much to learn and may finally... begin baking bread again! Exact directions on how to bake Liesl's bread is included on pages 18 and 19. I am in bliss!
   Cecelia turns her face to me. It shines with hopefulness, and that part of me that I don't want to exist, the one that needs people, the one that comes awake on these Sundays, drinks in her light. And it says to me. More.
   "Sure," I say. "Why not?"
   --Ibid., 31
    "My mother died when I was young," I tell her. "It still hurts not to have her around."
   --Ibid., 33
   We meet Cecelia and she says, "Someone gave me a bag to use," holding up a small Ziploc she's filled with pellets. "Take some too, Liesl."
   I do, offering the mound to the goat on its back legs right there next to me. I feel its tongue, rough and slick. But my eyes are on Seamus, kneeling behind his daughter, their heads so close they're touching as he holds his hand beneath hers to catch any wayward feed. She pulls her arm back as soon as she's nuzzled, wiping the saliva on her shorts. He kisses her cheek, and she wipes it away before patting his unruly beard. Their silence ritual. Seamus raises his equally wild brows and then tilts his chin into her neck, rubbing it back and forth as she laughs with her entire six-year-old body. And the goat at the fence continues to lick between my fingers, cleaning away every crumb of the old Seamus, the inconsiderate, sloppy, truck-driving oaf who tracked dirt through my bakehouse, leaving only the Seamus who spins wool better than Athena herself and who loves his little girl with abandon.
   --Ibid., 37-38
I have been waiting to meet Cecelia again since she first appeared at the bakery with her kindergarten class to poke and prod dough all-by-herself. I am surprised to hear of the introspection about Seamus. I had grown accustomed to her schedule ~*~ baking, sleeping, baking again. Somehow I knew Cecelia was important to this story from her first mention.
Yes, the irony of all ironies; the hearty, dark bread once considered fit only for thieves and livestock is now some of the most prized of all.
   --Ibid., 56-57
I love the descriptiveness! ~ And then back to Cecelia. You're going to think that little girl is my favorite (she is!).
We wore dull clothes in dull colors, moths not butterflies.
   --Ibid., 58
   "Well, then maybe the one there, with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes."
   "The chocolate, Daddy. It's right there. And there's only one left."
   There's always one left. I keep it aside, just for her, each time I make it.
   --Ibid., 59
   Another deep breath. A thumbprint of warmth blooms in the cavern beneath my breastbone, a penny on the sidewalk in the sun. The Comforter. The sensation fills my chest and dribbles down my limbs, and a perfect peace comes over me for a moment.
   --Ibid., 70
I can so identify with this. Me, too. It is like God saying, "I see you, Kathleen." And, of course, I always pick it up, with a smile on my face.
The Hebrews have freedom. Instead, they want food, their bellies filled with the early comfort they know. And God, the heavenly Comforter, sends bread of a different kind.
   What is it?
   They call it manna. And it's given to the wandering children of Israel, but not only for them. For us. For all who brush away the veil and will one day lay eyes on the true manna, a child they do not yet know will be born in Beth-lehem, the house of bread.
   --Ibid., 72
Micah 5:2, "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity."

Beautiful, beautiful story! I identify with it in innumerable ways! My German grandfather owned a bakery. He died before I was born. He began when he was 15 with the hops from the brewery/bar he was working at. My earliest memory of the bakery is sitting on a water radiator (no snow on the ground) between two stairwells looking out at the old fire station building across the street that was a tall two-story narrow building then. I moved to that city when I was in my beginning thirties and would pass by the building on my way to work; the bakery now a beauty shop. Sweet memories. There is still a fire station across the street, but a modern one now. And my father was an Irish Catholic; marrying my half-Norwegian/half-German mother. She died when I was five, just before my sixth birthday, and I sadly have no memory of her. The trauma of my loss must have wiped it away. Her mother came with her parents and siblings from Norway when she sixteen. Meeting and marrying my German grandfather, not much could be said when my 100% Irish Daddy came on the scene. He was a musician ~ beautifully on a grand piano he stopped playing when my mother died. Favorites ~ Clair de Lune, especially, and Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? They had been to the Mardi Gras shortly before she died following surgery. He went into the Commerce Bank to extend a loan he had on his snazzy automobile. My mother was the teller he chose. On Valentine's Day it was acceptable for a young debutante business college grad to send a valentine. Fancy, she has his address from his bank record. And my mother's name? Cecilia.
♪♫•*Does¨*your•.mother¸¸♥ know ♫¸.•*you're¨*out,•♫Cecilia? ♪ •Does♥•.she¸♪¸.•know♥♫•.that¸•♪♫I'm ♫♪about¸.•*toི♥ྀstealღ •ya'?ღ •♫♪

Christa interweaves Liesl's story remembering the past and moving on in the future in a fine seam at the bottom of the loaf. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction of the bakehouse staff and their unspoken love for each other that came through so vividly ~ being on time, doing what they know to do, being factual with each other, caring. I was totally emerged in the story, possibly because of my generational contact. There is more than bread making as Liesl comes to trusting ~ in her Lord and those He sends her at just the right time.

Preview first three chapters:

Christa Parrish
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Wendy Voorhis
author Christa Parrish: 

The Air We Breathe (Bethany House, 2012)
Finalist, 2013 Christianity Today Book Award for Fiction; Finalist, 2013 Christy Award, Contemporary Fiction (stand-alone)

Watch Over Me ( Bethany House, 2009)
Winner, 2010 ECPA Book Award for Fiction

Home Another Way (Bethany House, 2008)
Finalist, 2009 ECPA Book Award for Fiction

The Air We Breathe Watch Over Me Home Another Way

***Thank you to Litfuse Publishing Group for sending me a copy of Christa Parrish's novel, Stones for Bread, for this blog tour. This review is written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Stones for Bread KitchenAid Mixer Giveaway from Christa Parrish! Pin It & Win It!

  Christa Parrish is celebrating her fourth novel, Stones for Breadwith a KitchenAid Mixer giveaway.
#StonesforBread KitchenAid Mixer Contest #ChristaParrish

Easy steps to enter:

1. Follow Christa Parrish and TNZ Fiction on Pinterest.

2. Then Pin the Stones for Bread book cover (below), the contest graphic (above), or both, and link to this post (using this URL: #StonesforBread KitchenAid Mixer Contest #ChristaParrish

3. Then fill out THIS SHORT FORM to let us know. (There are also some additional ways to earn extra entries, as well as an option for non-Pinterest users. It's true—people like that do exist!)

Questions? Email info @ litfusegroup dot com.

Winner will be announced on 12/9 on Christa's Facebook Page.

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