The Secret of Everything: Book summary and reviews of The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal

The Secret of Everything

By Barbara O'Neal

The Secret of Everything
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2010,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

Barbara O'Neal, author of The Lost Recipe for Happiness, delivers a generous helping of the best in life–family, food, and love–in the story of a woman's search for the one thing worth more than anything.

At thirty-seven, Tessa Harlow is still working her way down her list of goals to "fall in love and have a family." A self-described rolling stone, Tessa leads hiking tours for adventurous vacationers–it's a job that's taken her around the world but never a step closer to home. Then a freak injury during a trip already marred by tragedy forces her to begin her greatest adventure of all.

Located high in the New Mexico mountains, Las Ladronas has become a magnet for the very wealthy and very hip, but once upon a time it was the setting of a childhood trauma Tessa can only half remember. Now, as she rediscovers both her old hometown and her past, Tessa is drawn to search-and-rescue worker Vince Grasso. The handsome widower isn’t her type. No more inclined to settle down than Tessa, Vince is the father of three, including an eight-year-old girl as lost as Tessa herself. But Tessa and Vince are both drawn to the town's most beloved eatery – 100 Breakfasts – and to each other. For Tessa, the restaurant is not only the key to the mystery that has haunted her life but a chance to find the home and the family she's never known.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"O’Neal has created a powerful and intriguing story rich in detailed and vivid descriptions of the Southwest." - Booklist

"[W]hile the contrived climax may annoy, the recipes and the depth of the characters will please." - Publishers Weekly

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Cloggie Downunder
a heartwarming story
The Secret of Everything is Barbara O’Neal’s second novel. This is the story of thirty-seven year old Tessa Harlow, who leads hiking tours for adventurous vacationers. After a freak injury in a hiking trip marred by tragedy, Tessa is drawn to the New Mexico town of Los Ladrones, once the setting of a childhood trauma that Tessa can only remember in confusing flashes. The story is told in several voices: Tessa, looking for her past; Sam, her ex-hippie, surfer father, running away from that past; Vince Grasso, a widowed search and rescue worker and father of three daughters; Natalie, Vince’s troubled eight-year-old; Vita Solano, the proprietor of the town’s most beloved eatery, 100 Breakfasts Café; and Annie Veracruz, a recent prison parolee and employee at 100 Breakfasts. As Tessa explores the town on the pretext of setting up a hiking and gourmet cooking tour, she visits the Green Gate farm, the latest incarnation of the 70’s commune when she spent her early childhood. A heart-warming story of family, food and love, this novel has some wonderful characters, evocative descriptions and a plot with a few surprises. Oh, and of course, mouth-watering recipes! I look forward to Barbara O’Neal’s next novel.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Sharon S. (Stanley, N.C.)
"The Secret of Everything" by Barbara O'Neal
If you are a product of the sixties you will want to read "The Secret of Everything". Tessa Harlow has a job most of us can only dream of, but with this comes along a quest to find out who she is. Tessa has only a few memories of her childhood, but after an accident that brings her close to death she decides to search for the answers that have plagued her since childhood.Where or who will have the key to unlock her memories? Along the way she finds great food, new love and all the answers she has been searching for. A great fast read that book clubs will find very engaging!
This would make for a great movie !

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Margaret H. (Springfield, VA)
The Secret of Everything
Lisa is trying to recover from an accident on a camping trip and at the same time she is trying to remember her youth in New Mexico and why her father has never wanted to return. When she visits her home she starts to remember her past, including another girl and to question the things her father has told her. Along the way she identifies with the people in the town and starts to feel comfortable with them from the young widower and his children to the people who now live where she remembers growing up. The author makes her characters alive and reins in the reader to try to figure out the secret of Lisa's birth. This should make a fun book club read, especially for those with ties to the 60's.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Teresa C. (Pickerington, OH)
The Secret of Everything
I found this book to be an easy read. It kept my attention but wasn't as much of a page turner as I had hoped. The main character, Tessa Harlow, has nearly recovered physically from a hiking accident but is still struggling to recover mentally. As she pushes herself to face her past so she can move on she discovers some hidden family secrets that threaten to further impede her quest for recovery.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)
A Great Read
I knew I was going to like this book from what I read on BookBrowse's synopsis of it, and I was not disappointed; it captivated me from beginning to end!

I enjoy books that are about women who overcome odds, and this is one of those. There were times, when I was on the edge of my seat, which I think also makes for a good novel.

Though I guessed some of what happened, it didn't spoil it for me; and I think others, who enjoy books that combine romance, mystery and action will like this book.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Linda S. (Oceanside, NY)
Everyone has secrets
Tessa Harlow is a tour guide recovering from a terrible accident on her last tour, a tour that ended with a death and Tessa recovering from severe injuries. After months of recuperation she is looking to get back to work and heads to Las Ladrones, New Mexico to determine if it would be a good tour for her company. Tessa has a bit of a past there, she lived there as a child and almost drowned. While there Tessa comes face to face with her past and she begins to discover “The Secret of Everything”.

This book was an easy read, pretty standard chick lit fare; beautiful emotionally damaged woman meets incredibly handsome but equally damaged man, sparks and sex fly and together they help each other heal. Nothing earth shattering here, although there was a bit of an interesting mystery involving Tessa’s past. Some small magical realism bits seemed a little out of place. The characters were very likable, especially the character of Natalie, a little girl grieving the loss of her mother. The descriptions of New Mexico make you want to pack your bags tomorrow. The storylines eventually come together in one big happy bow at the end, not too believable but if you just want to have a nice beach read this is the book for you.

...24 more reader reviews

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Read the backstory to The Secret of Everything

Barbara O'Neal fell in love with restaurants and the secret language of spoons when she was sixteen. She spent more than a decade in various restaurants, dives to cafes to high cuisine, before selling his first novel. O'Neal teaches workshops nationally and internationally, and lives with her partner, a British endurance athlete, in Colorado Springs. She can be found online at www.barbaraoneal.com

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