The Baker’s Apprentice
Published by: Harper Perennial
Release Date: March 14, 2006
Wyn Morrison—first introduced in Bread Alone—has found contentment in a life very different from anything she previously imagined—making bread on the night shift and learning the fine points of running a bakery. In fact, when Mac returns to Seattle at summer’s end, his first manuscript completed and sent off to an agent, her life seems scarily perfect.
But all too soon the inevitable stress fractures appear. Wyn can’t quite banish the ghosts of her failed marriage enough to completely trust a man, and Mac’s reticence about his past does nothing to allay her anxiety. The closer she feels to him, the more opaque he becomes. Meanwhile in L.A., soon-to-be ex-husband David has fired his attorney and hired new, take-no-prisoners counsel, creating a major snarl in divorce proceedings.
Mac’s abrupt departure for Alaska leaves her stunned, hurt and angry, but conflicts at the bakery and her friend Tyler’s traumatic loss leave Wyn little time for brooding. Not only will she learn more about Mac in his absence, but also about herself, as she becomes Tyler’s mentor, passing on the wisdom and healing power of bread making. Her new self-awareness and resilience will be tested when the bakery’s existence is threatened, as well as when Mac returns and she must decide whether there’s still a place for him in her life.
“Bread remains a significant metaphor for life in Hendricks’s warm and savory sequel to her debut novel, Bread Alone (2001).”
“Hendricks has created another engaging tale of modern life in Seattle. Fans of strong female characters will appreciate this novel.”
“Readers who loved Wynter and Mac in Bread Alone (2001) will be glad to know that Hendricks cooks up a fulfilling second helping in this engaging sequel. Highly recommended.”
“Hendricks’ debut (Bread Alone) marked the arrival of a compelling new voice in women’s fiction, and The Baker’s Apprentice confirms her place among the most prominent authors of that genre.”
“Rich, absorbing and truly delightful… The Baker’s Apprentice is the feel-good novel of the year…”
—Tracy Farnsworth, Roundtable Reviews
“The Baker’s Apprentice is a delightful read…thought provoking, poignant and engrossing. Fans of Bread Alone will not want to miss the sequel and I highly recommend this series to fans of contemporary fiction.”
“Hendricks rolls out a delicious sequel in The Baker’s Apprentice.”
—The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
I think I’ve actually been working on this book since 1995 when I started writing Bread Alone. There was so much more I wanted to do with the characters, their relationships with each other and their personal growth—particularly Mac, who didn’t really reveal much about himself or his history in the first book. And of course, the relationship between Wyn and Tyler, who becomes not just an apprentice, but sort of Wyn’s surrogate daughter.
Also I was interested in exploring the way the Queen Anne neighborhood changed during the early nineties, the response to gentrification pressures, what happened to some of the businesses and people who had been in the neighborhood for a long time.
I did a fair amount of research for the middle section, which involves Mac disappearing into the wilds of the Yukon. I became fascinated by this huge, sparsely populated chunk of mostly unspoiled wilderness north of British Columbia. I wanted to drive up there on the Alaska Highway, but I ran out of time, so most of my research consisted of reading every book—fiction and non-fiction—that I could find that had anything to do with the far Northwest—the land itself, the history, especially the Klondike gold rush, the kinds of people who were drawn to settle there.
I was also fortunate to have some dear friends who spent most of one summer driving, camping and hiking up there, so I sat for nearly two days with them, listening to their stories and pouring over their photos.
The funny thing is, now that I’ve written the sequel, it’s still hard to let go of these characters. I still find myself daydreaming about Mac and Wyn, CM and Tyler, even David, and wondering what happens next…
At 5:30 a.m. the sun is a faint pinkish glow filtered through fog. Linda’s out front, loading banana cinnamon swirl bread onto the rack behind the register. The street is still quiet enough that I hear the engine before I see the headlights. The sound is unmistakable—as individual as a fingerprint. A truck. A 1971 Chevy El Camino in need of a tune-up. Mac.
My heart and my stomach decide to switch places.
I turn, just in time to see the Elky roll up in front of the bakery, unsavory-looking as ever, its paint oxidized to a soft ivory that suggests that once upon a time it was white. Only the newly painted right rear fender gleams like an anchorman’s smile.
I thought he wouldn’t be back till the end of the month. I thought…well, I thought a lot of things. Two weeks ago in the San Juan Islands we wrecked a perfectly good friendship by making love for the first time. I sort of thought he’d call me, but he hasn’t. Is he sorry it happened? Am I? What should I say? Should I run out and throw myself on him? Should I be cool? Let him know he can’t take anything for granted? Act like it never happened?
I push my hair back and take a deep breath. Be casual. Hi. How are you? I didn’t think you’d be back so soon. Then I remember my hands are covered with wet dough. I wipe them on the towel that hangs from my apron strings and force myself to walk slowly around the end of the counter and out the door. He’s on the curb, reaching inside the truck for something, and when he hears the door, he turns around. Before I have a chance to launch my carefully noncommittal greeting, he picks me up in his arms and crushes me against him till I can’t breathe and don’t particularly care to.
After we’ve tried kissing from a number of different angles, he sets me down on the sidewalk. I rearrange my apron and my bunched up T-shirt, and he laughs as he extricates a few little globs of dough from my hair.
“I thought you weren’t coming back till…later.” I wish I didn’t sound so breathless.
The look he turns on me makes my knees feel jointed at the back, like flamingo legs. “I couldn’t wait that long,” he says. “What time are you off?”
“I’ll be back then.”
“Where are you going?”
“Kenny said I could stay with him for a few days till I find a place. I’m going to drop my stuff off there.” He leans over to kiss me again. “And take a cold shower.”
Linda rolls her eyes ceiling-ward when I come back inside, rubbing my bare arms from the chilly mist.
“Looks like one divorce didn’t learn you nothin’.”
“Teach,” I say absently. “It didn’t teach me anything.”
I wander back to the work area, drawn by the warmth of the ovens, the perfume of roasting grains hanging in the air like incense. I pull the heavy door to the top deck open. One sheet pan with six loaves of lemon poppyseed tea bread, is all that remains of our night’s work. They’re not quite done. I set the timer for five minutes and consider the possibility of truth in what I’ve just said.
It’s not too late to bail. I could plead temporary insanity, say I’ve reconsidered, and that maybe taking our friendship to the next level wasn’t such a great idea after all. But then I think about all the time we spent together last year. Listening to music and trolling for treasure in used book stores, me dragging him to old movies. How he took me to the hospital in the middle of the April Fool’s Day blizzard when I had appendicitis, read to me from Gatsby while I recuperated. I think about that night on the ferryboat, standing next to him at the rail, while he pointed out the Big Dipper and Bootes, Polaris and Arcturus, and how I felt when he said he was going up to Orcas for the summer.
Nope. It may be insanity, but I’m afraid it’s not temporary.