Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: May 28, 2002
Not suited for teaching high school and hopeless at selling real-estate, thirty-one-year-old Wynter Morrison has long ago given up any pretense of being a career woman and drifted into the role of a trophy wife. So after seven years of marriage, when her husband David informs her that it was all a mistake, she is left emotionally devastated and directionless—wondering how she let herself become so dependent.
Desperate for a change of scenery, Wyn leaves behind her pampered life in Los Angeles and ventures north to Seattle, where she spends hours at a small local bakery sipping coffee and inhaling the aromas of freshly made bread. These visits bring back memories of her apprenticeship at a French boulangerie, when her passion for bread making nearly led her to abandon college for cooking school. When offered a position at the bakery, Wyn accepts, grateful for the comfort of a routine.
Turning her schedule upside down to work all night and sleep during the day, learning to coexist with Linda, the irascible bread baker; making friends with earth mother Ellen, her artistic partner Diane, and Tyler, the blue-haired barista—Wyn happens upon some truths that she apparently missed while living the good life in Hancock Park. And soon she finds that making bread—the kneading of the dough, the scent of yeast hanging in the air—possesses an unexpected and wondrous healing power—helping her to rediscover that nothing stays the same: bread rises, pain fades, the heart heals and the future beckons.
Download the discussion guide here
“A polished first novel filled with tantalizing descriptions of places and foods…”
—BOOKSENSE 76 Pick
“Bread Alone will have you salivating and cheering…”
“A charming, romantic first novel…fun to read and meaningful to remember.”
—Booklist, starred review
“The author’s own experience in a Seattle bakery resonates in her descriptions of hard work and difficult co-workers in turning out the breakfast treats that sell the espresso. The recipes in “Bread Alone” are solid, like Plain Old Bread, pain de campagne and Patty’s Cakes, dark chocolate loaf cakes that are mixed up in a saucepan and finished with an over-the-top caramel espresso sauce. If you put down the book to try them, you won’t be disappointed…”
“Eaten Any Good Books Lately?” The New York Times – September 12, 2001
“Hendricks’s engaging first novel will appeal to fans of a good story and intriguing characters. Highly recommended.”
“In this engaging novel, Hendricks creates a compelling narrator whose wry, bemused and ultimately wise voice hooks the reader…a well written, imaginative debut.”
“…This is a romance, really, but one for bookish feminists, and a luscious read.”
—The London Observer
“…a warm-hearted novel…sassy, but never facile, often funny and it conveys a convincing sense of the pain of being abandoned.”
—Elizabeth Buchan, author of The Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman, in The London Sunday Times
While not autobiographical in the strictest sense, Bread Alone is an intensely personal novel, which grew out of my experience working at the McGraw Street Bakery, a small neighborhood bakery located on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. In 1988 when I worked there, it was owned by two women—Nancy Mattheiss and Jessica Reissman—and all the employees were women, with the exception of a fifteen-year-old boy who showed up from time to time as the spirit moved him, to wash dishes.
We had earth mothers and hippie chicks. We had one or two troubled teens. We had a struggling watercolorist, we had a woman trying to leave an abusive husband, we had gay women just coming out. We had pets dying and children in crisis. Besides that, and in all modesty, we had some of the best baked goods in Seattle.
Everyone has them—those interludes that reverberate seemingly forever after in your life. They exert a kind of magic, almost a gravitational pull on you. You keep revisiting them and reliving them in your mind. They assume a significance all out of proportion to their actual duration. For me, working at the bakery was like that. I never forgot the place or the women I worked with or the great stuff we made. Other than writing, it was the only job I’ve ever had where I felt absolutely free and totally myself, and I guess it sort of percolated down through my unconscious in the intervening years.
Eight years later, I sat down to write a memoir about it, and instead, a novel came out.
My Oma told me that the best friendships often start with a quarrel. She said there’s a closeness that comes from a good healthy fight that you can’t get any other way, and I think it must be true. Look at CM and me. Our friendship started with a fistfight and twenty-two years later it’s still going strong. The friendship, I mean.
The fight was about a boy. It seems ridiculous now, but at the time we were the two tallest girls in the third grade, and Michael Garrity—while neither attractive nor pleasant—was the only boy taller than we were.
After the playground monitor had escorted us to the office with CM holding wet paper towels on her bloody nose, and our mothers were sequestered with the principal, we were left by ourselves in the hall to await sentencing. We turned to each other as if on cue, and the instant our eyes met, we started to laugh. We got a two-day suspension from school. Our parents grounded us for a month. On our first day of freedom we went behind her garage and gouged ourselves with her dad’s rusty Boy Scout knife to become blood sisters.
She accepted a choreographer’s fellowship position with a dance company in Seattle over a year ago, and we haven’t seen each other since. But whenever we talk on the phone, it feels like we’re picking up right where we left off only a day or two ago. She’s the one person I want to talk to now, but before I can call her, she calls me on Monday night. At the sound of her voice, my seething emotions attain critical mass and I start to bawl.
I blow my nose and keep blotting the tears that refuse to abate.
“What’s going on down there?”
“I don’t know. David is…We’re—I think we’re splitting up.”
As I’m pouring my heart out, I suddenly realize she’s laughing. Surprise stops my tears in their tracks. “I’m sorry, Baby. I’m not laughing at you. It’s just that I was calling to tell you Neal moved out.” Now I’m laughing too, albeit a bit hysterically. “I think we should fall back and regroup,” she says. “Why don’t you get your ass on a plane and come up here for a nice long visit?”
The following Saturday, one of those blue and gold September afternoons, finds me on an Alaska Air Lines flight heading for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. My mother’s reaction to my departure was predictable.
“Have you taken leave of your senses? This is exactly the wrong time for you to go away. You need to be there. Show him you love him. Cook dinner for him. Make your presence felt.”
The fact that he’s never home for dinner, doesn’t want to feel my presence—in fact acts slightly surprised and annoyed when we pass each other in the hall, as if I’m a long term houseguest who’s overstayed her welcome—none of this registers with my mother.
David’s unabashed enthusiasm was depressing. “I think it’s a really good idea, Wyn. I need to do some thinking. It’ll be good for me to be alone.”