Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal

From Barbara O’Neal, beloved author of How to Bake a Perfect Life and The Lost Recipe for Happiness, comes another magical, heartfelt novel—perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs. 
After tragedy shatters her small community in Seattle, the Reverend Elsa Montgomery has a crisis of faith. Returning to her hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, she seeks work in a local soup kitchen. Preparing nourishing meals for folks in need, she keeps her hands busy while her heart searches for understanding. 
Meanwhile, her sister, Tamsin, as pretty and colorful as Elsa is unadorned and steadfast, finds her perfect life shattered when she learns that her financier husband is a criminal. Enduring shock and humiliation as her beautiful house and possessions are seized, the woman who had everything now has nothing but the clothes on her back. 
But when the going gets tough, the tough get growing. A community garden in the poorest, roughest part of town becomes a lifeline. Creating a place of hope and sustenance opens Elsa and Tamsin to the renewing power of rich earth, sunshine, and the warm cleansing rain of tears. While Elsa finds her heart blooming in the care of a rugged landscaper, Tamsin discovers the joy of losing herself in the act of giving—and both women discover that with time and care, happy endings flourish.
Okay, a book set in So. CO? I found this book and contacted the author. I was curious and I had to read it.

This book is about crossroads and what we do when faced with one. It does center around a crises of faith but it also brings in other crises and choices that all the author's characters deal with. It does center around a Catholic church, but for those wary of things that are religious, you need not worry. It isn't preachy at all. In fact, the author includes a variety of faiths and view points. There is the Catholic priest, the Unity preacher, an agnostic, a Native American Shaman, and others not defined all coming together in a community rocked with financial hardship. I did like that the author included all of those faiths without anyone clashing on who is right.

The author also brings in elements that can be described as paranormal. Elsa has premonitions and visions. Father Joaquin has seen an angel who guides him. There are also ghostly elements sprinkled in toward the end, but those are not seen as scary, but as curiosities and and enhancement for Elsa's journey. Of course you know I enjoyed these elements most of all.

I have only a couple of criticisms which are both very personal in nature and will not affect the majority of people reading it. One is that although I could follow the characters when they came to a specific and real life place, it didn't quite have the color of the area. Some of the flavor was missing. However, no one but those that know the area well would pick up on it. And speaking of flavor... the food! Okay, you know it is a Catholic church at the center. Anyone who has been around a place like that knows it will be centered around food. Yes, my biggest complaint is that I became hungry for tamales. No matter what food she presented, I had tamales on the brain. Have you tasted tamales from the ladies at a church like that? They usually put out their best work for the church and they are delish! Someone get me a homemade tamale quick! *cries* Okay, not everyone will be upset as I was about the food, but it was my own personal quibble. ;D

I give this book 4 stars. It accomplishes what it sets out to be... a sweet book about people coming together at the crossroads of their lives. If you are hankering for a sweet contemporary book, this one is for you.
I was given this book by the author an no compensation for my review was given.

19 comments:

  1. Really surprised that this was your kind of thing Melissa. Seems like a religious book from the description. I'd pass it right by. But from what you say in your review it isn't. Sounds like a great pick me up kind of book. Awesome review! I've never had a tamale. I don't think I'd be craving one. I suppose I should rememdy that.

    Heather

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    1. Nope, not religious at all. NEVER? Oh man, I so need to get you a tamale... a good one. *sigh*

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  2. a bit of a different read for you Melissa, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  3. I didn't now this one, but it's nive to have a story like that. I don't know if it's really for me, but maybe one day. thanks for the review!

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  4. This is a different kind of read for you but I am often drawn to books either set in my area OR written by people in my area. I don't know why but they "appeal" to me :)

    Now I want some tamales

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    1. @ ...Petty and Felicia... Na, not different, but different in what I review. ;)

      *sigh* Me too... Felicia... me too... *cries*

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  5. I also like to read books that take place in places near and dear to my heart. This is an interesting read, church and supernatural elements. I normally steer away from religious reads but this sounds really interesting. An interesting dilemma wanting tamales. They are rather a pain in the behind to make but oh so good!

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    1. Ahh thank you for inluding me on your blog list! I will get your button on my roll today!

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    2. It really isn't religious, but just takes place around churches... where people gather. And you are welcome! I enjoy your blog!

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  6. Hm...can't you review a bad book for once ;) You read too many good ones

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    1. I'll try to get to a real bad one for you... ;D LOL

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  7. It's been a while since I read a sweet book - I like mine with a mix of sour in there as well! :-)

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  8. Thanks for the review! It does sound like a cute read. I don't mind religious books, and that's good it's not preachy, but sometimes I do get a bit weary with them...haha It all depends.

    -Lauren

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  9. Cool to read a book so close to home. ;) Glad it was an enjoyable read for you over all. Thank you!

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  10. I've tasted tamales like that. Muy bueno! As soon as you mentioned them, I forgot everything else your wrote. And I just had dinner too.

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  11. I am glad you liked this book so much. At first I thought: nah, too much like real life for me, but when you put an angel and ghosts in the book, it sounds more interesting.

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  12. I love books with a good happy ending! This sounds like something I would love to read.

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  13. Damn! Now I'm going to have to beg my grandma to make me some tamales. I know what she is going to say, bring me a deer and I will. LOL

    But it's now the right session for tamales, at least not here. Nothing is better than hot tamales on cold days, and our cold days won't come till Nov. :(

    Aside from reading books set in Texas, Colorado is my next favorite. I love the setting. Makes me wish I could move there. Hope you got room at your place for me.

    Sounds like a good story. I love it when a bit of paranormal is mixed in with contemporary.

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