Recap - The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal
Follow-up - The first part of January was a very good time for books since I read Brande's Fat Cat and Barbara O'Neal's The Secret of Everything then. Both books made my mid-year list of favorites, and they ended up on this list as well. I was lucky enough to hear and meet Barbara Samuel O'Neal at the Tucson Festival of Books in March. And, I can't wait to read her new book, How to Bake a Perfect Life. It's due out next week, as a trade paperback. I already have it ordered. Here's a sneak peek at the cover of that one, before the review of The Secret of Everything.
Barbara O'Neal, who gave us one of my favorite books of last year, The Lost Recipe for Happiness, has written another beautiful story, a gift of loneliness, love, family, reparation, and forgiveness. The Secret of Everything is filled with that beauty, plus food, with a little of the magic O'Neal shares with Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman. O'Neal's latest book is a treat for the senses, and the heart.
Tessa Harlow felt lost and guilty, after a hiking tour she led ended in tragedy. She suffered a broken arm and an infected foot, but recuperation at her father's oceanside home left her restless. So, despite her father's premonitions and warnings, she headed to Los Ladronas, New Mexico, a town reputed to be a new hot spot for foodies and celebrities. Tessa thought the town north of Santa Fe might offer a new site for tours. Instead, she ran into a past she never knew she had.
Her first night in town, she ran into Vince Grasso, a sexy man who did search-and-rescue. Vince, a widower with three young daughters, was focused on raising them, and trying to see his two oldest daughters, Natalie and Jade, through a rough period. At eight and six, they were suddenly at war with each other. Natalie, the oldest, felt lost and alone, trying to keep her mother's memory alive.
For thirty years, Vita Solano enjoyed sharing her passion for food at her restaurant, 100 Breakfasts. As a woman who was abused, and lived through it, she offered jobs, and hope, to women who ended up in jail. Her latest project was Annie, just released from prison. But, her restaurant was also a refuge for other lost souls, including Tessa, Vince, and Natalie.
Barbara O'Neal neatly intertwines the lives of her characters with the story of the town, Los Ladronas. As Tessa relives her recent tragedy, memories flash back from her childhood, memories that seem rooted in the history of the town, and its infamous commune. But, these are memories, and stories, that her father never told her. Now, his greatest fears are coming true.
It takes a commune, death, love, resurrection, and forgiveness, to reveal The Secret of Everything. Mix together a story of family, add some dogs, and enough recipes to make a foodie drool, along with a little magic. Here's a book of love, and loss, and tears. It's the type of story Hoffman and Allen have successfully created. Now, add Barbara O'Neal and The Secret of Everything to that special, must read list.
(Before giving the website, let me add that the copyright for Barbara O'Neal's books are under the name Barbara Samuel, the author of other books about strong women, family, and love.)
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
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My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.