Friday, December 17, 2010

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.)

Barbara O'Neal's website is

The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal. Bantam Books, ©2009. ISBN 9780553385526(paperback), 400p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought this book.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I'm going to enjoy this recap, Lesa. Thanks so much! I'm still doing some Christmas shopping, too. :)

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth. Actually, it was nice for me to go back and remember the books I enjoyed this year. I hope this helps a little with shopping!

Clea Simon said...

I love these recaps, Lesa, because they remind me of the books I missed. The great things about books: they don't get stale! Thanks for doing this.

Lesa said...

Oh, I love that, Clea, that books don't get stale. I'm glad you're enjoying the recaps.

Robin Hillyer Miles said...

Love Barbara O'Neal's work. She can desribe in two sentences a place and you feel like you are right there with her ... amazing.

Can't wait to read her new book, have got to order it tonight! Oh, heck, maybe today while I'm at work (shhhhh).

Lesa said...

I won't tell anyone, Robin. Promise! I can't wait to have the time just to sit and sink into Barbara O'Neal's world.