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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.
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!
Margaret H. (Springfield, VA)
The Secret of Everything
This would make for a great movie !
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.
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.
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!
Linda S. (Oceanside, NY)
Everyone has secrets
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.
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”.
Carol N. (San Jose, CA)
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.
I can’t say I was smitten with this book. . . interesting premise, but unknown author and very few expectations. The book’s main character is a young woman in her 30’s whose mother died when she was a child. All that Tessa really knows about her early childhood is that she and her parents lived in a New Mexico commune. Working as an adventure guide and recovering from a recent physical injury, she decides to combine a work fact-finding trip with business and return to the commune.
Wilhelmina H. (Florida)
I thought this was a unique and interesting setting, and found the interspersed recipes neat however this gimmick has overused by authors. Once Tessa arrives in the area of the commune (now an organic farm/bakery), she meets up with a variety of interesting people, and includes Vince, a single dad of three little girls. I certainly was in the mood to enjoy a little romance (sex) but the author’s pornographic descriptions were a little out of character for the rest of the book.
The book was crowded with too many choppy, never fully developed story lines and lacked the thrust to keep me reading. I put it down several times finding it didn’t have that special something to draw me immediately back. Would Tessa ever learn or remember about her early history? Never did figure the author’s intention by the insertion of the mysterious man in the plaza – rather odd and really didn’t fit. My last comment is about the ending .... too quick, neatly resolved and somewhat forced.
Overall I enjoyed reading this. I liked the writing style and found the characters to be mostly believable. I liked the author's use of words and phrases in describing sights and sounds, places and people. There are a few uneven patches regarding flow within the storyline - these parts didn't have quite enough detail or connection to make them fit well into the rest of the story and seemed either under-developed or not necessary. However, those parts don't take much away from the overall book. I would recommend this to readers looking for a not quite mystery, not quite romance, but a light blend of both. Weird deja-vu moment today ... drove past a house with windowsills painted similarly to those described in the book.