Title: The Secret of Everything
Author: Barbara O’Neal
Release Date: December 29, 2009
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
After a horrible accident, Tessa Harlow takes a trip to New Mexico in order to sort things out. She is officially there to scout out new locations for tours for the company she works for, but there are also personal reasons for her trip. Tessa grew up on a commune in this area of New Mexico, and though she has lost most of her memories from that time, she is curious to see if she can make any connections with her past while she’s there. However, Tessa makes more connections than she expects in the little town as she’s coming to terms with her accident and uncovers questions from her past that she can’t find the answer to.
The Secret of Everything is a book that is incredibly similar to O’Neal’s debut, The Lost Recipe for Happiness. There is a damaged heroine that needs to come to terms with something that happened in her past, painful physical injuries to overcome, and food. Wonderful food. The cuisine in this novel is so delectably described that the reader can taste it. O’Neal has a wonderful talent at making the food in her novels incredibly delicious, even if you can’t physically taste what she’s describing.
Despite the similarities to The Lost Recipe for Happiness, this book actually works a lot better in terms of fluidity in the story. The main character, Tessa, is a wonderfully drawn and easy to get to know. She’s smart and strong, but yet is left vulnerable because of her accident. O’Neal develops her very well, and the reader can really identify with Tessa.
I loved O’Neal’s descriptions of New Mexico – she really made me want to go visit the area she was describing in her novel. Like the discussion of food, O’Neal’s descriptions of New Mexico made it palpable to the reader. I could taste the arid air and see the beauty of the area. It was wonderfully enjoyable to read – O’Neal really is a master of description and details in novels.
If O’Neal was trying to establish a formula with her books, she’s certainly succeeded. The Secret of Everything improves upon her last book, ironing out rough spots and discarding unnecessary plot lines. It sets the stage for wonderful novels in the future. Though I’m not the biggest fan of formulas, I actually like the one O’Neal has come up with – she’s a talented enough writer to where the formula doesn’t jump out at you. I look forward to seeing how she improves on it in her next novel!