Title: The Garden of Happy Endings
Author: Barbara O’Neal
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
After a horrible tragedy occurs in her hometown of Seattle, Elsa Montgomery finds herself in the midst of a crisis of faith. For Elsa, this is earth-shattering because she is a minister; if she can’t lead by example, how can anyone trust her? Elsa flees to her hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, where she finds comfort with her sister, Tamsin. But all is not as simple as it seems in Pueblo – Tamsin’s husband has disappeared and Elsa’s best friend and former lover, Joaquin, now a priest in the Catholic Church, serves to muddle Elsa’s already complicated life.
When I first picked up The Garden of Happy Endings, I had no idea what it was about. I settled down with it, only to find it involved religion and church, something that always makes me wary. It’s not that I have anything against it, just that I don’t like it when the books I read preach to me. I decided to trust in Barbara O’Neal and continue with the book, and I was delighted to find that she treated the reader with respect when it came to religion. The book’s brand of faith was a personal one, and while religion is a central theme in the novel, it was in no way preachy and I enjoyed this aspect of it.
There are a few major and minor characters in The Garden of Happy Endings, and I enjoyed getting to know all of them. Elsa and Tamsin were both strong, resourceful women going through major personal crises. They find healing through depending on one another, and it’s a beautiful tribute to the power of sisters. At times, the issues and storylines that crop up in the book feel a bit random, but O’Neal does a great job of eventually bringing everything together.
Though The Garden of Happy Endings deals with serious issues – murder, gang violence, loss of faith, misogyny, and more – it has a hopeful, upbeat tone. The reader never doubts that Elsa will find a place of comfort and happiness. She will find some sort of solution to her crisis of faith by the end of the book. I loved this sense of “right” that permeated the book, the message that, even in the worst of times, there is always something to hope for.
The Garden of Happy Endings is a sweet novel that fans of women’s fiction will enjoy. If you’ve ever experience a personal loss of faith in whatever higher power you believe in, especially if it was due to some sort of senseless tragedy, you must pick up this book. O’Neal’s writing style is engaging and her message is uplifting; this is a great choice for when your soul needs a little soothing.
Other books by Barbara O’Neal: