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The Secret of Everything: A Novel Paperback – December 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tessa Harlow returns home to her father and her birthplace, Las Ladronas, N.Mex., after a traumatic accident. There she meets Vince, a single father with three high-spirited girls. Vince and Tessa soon become lovers, but know they can't have anything more permanent, because as Tessa tells him, she's a wanderer. Also, as Tessa snoops into town history, she uncovers secrets that call into question everything she thinks she knows about her parents. Too many interlinking plots and convenient resolutions temper the firm grasp O'Neal (The Lost Recipe for Happiness) has of the spiritual Southwest. In her favor is a talent for persuasively portraying men, women and children and a definite reverence for cooking. So while the contrived climax may annoy, the recipes and the depth of the characters will please. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Tessa Harlow is on the move again. A travel guide, she’s lived all over the world since she was a child, following Renaissance Faires with her hippie father; but after an accident in a Montana river, she’s been sidelined. When she decides it’s once again time to move, she heads to a small northern New Mexico town called Los Ladrones. The small town is being revived, thanks to the tourists, and she’s testing the waters for work, visiting hotels, restaurants, and churches; but in doing so, she uncovers multiple secrets. Many years ago, she and her father lived on a commune outside of Los Ladrones, now an organic farm, with many of the same residents who now seem to know something she doesn’t. The farm raises more questions than it answers about her family, and memories of something tragic and long buried in her subconscious are resurfacing and cannot be ignored. O’Neal has created a powerful and intriguing story rich in detailed and vivid descriptions of the Southwest. --Hilary Hatton

Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780553385526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553385526
  • ASIN: 0553385526
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #878,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ladyslott VINE VOICE on January 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
Tessa Harlow is a tour guide recovering from a terrible accident on her last tour, a trip 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 story lines 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.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth H. Cottrell on March 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book doesn't belong in the top tier because it's not life-changing or edifying in any way, but boy does it entertain! It was the quintessential "beach book" and, if truth be told, probably a "chick book." It was just what I needed to push away the winter doldrums and get my mind off anything stressful, and I carried it with me so I could read whenever I was waiting for anything (dentist's office, meetings, etc.).

Tessa Harlow is recuperating from an injury sustained when a landslide occurred while she was leading a hiking tour group in the mountains and one of the members was swept into the river and drowned. Tessa's own rescue from the river awakened long-dormant memories of a similar rescue when she was a child, an accident about which her father has been strangely quiet, though it was responsible for her mother's death.

Drawn to the New Mexico town of Las Ladronas and thinking it would be the ideal destination for a future tour group, Tessa finds herself embroiled in a series of strange emotions and coincidences that add layer upon layer to the mystery of her life and questions about the relationships between people in the story who seem to be so drawn to each other. Of course there is delicious love interest in the person of Vince Grasso, a handsome widower with three appealing little girls, one of whom is troubled over the death of her own mother and to whom Tessa feels especially drawn.

The book's appeal is heightened by the charming presence of very affectionate dogs and the sprinkling of real recipes (the author is actually a food professional herself). The recipes remind the reader of the power of good, nourishing food, lovingly prepared, to comfort and heal.

I was so sorry when this book gave great pleasure.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Indian Prairie Public Library on July 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed "devouring" this book while on vacation. It's got many elements of a great "beach read" - fascinating characters, wonderful setting, romance, a bit of mystery, and great food (along with the recipes). The vivid descriptions of the small town in New Mexico where much of the story takes place made me want to visit New Mexico!

I also loved the delicious-sounding recipes scattered throughout the book. Finally, a great bonus for me, were the wonderful dogs that so brilliantly came to life as family members of various characters. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys escaping to another location and experiencing the joys and sorrows of well-developed, likable characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Ginster on March 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
Solving The Secret of Everything depends on whether Tessa Harlow will remember her past and find out what has happened to her missing family.

Years and years ago there was a commune in Los Ladrones, New Mexico founded by Alexander McKenzie who was the hippie son of a rich family on the East Coast. Someone mysteriously killed him and most of the commune members scattered. Before his death, McKenzie fathered dozens of children. Today it is a successful organic farm and cooking school. After visiting the quaint, little town and farm, Tessa, whose early memories have been suppressed, feels that she may have lived there as a child and remembers having a sister. She vaguely remembers a fire and almost drowning in the river.

Tessa is a tour guide and is visiting Los Ladrones in the hopes of establishing a new hiking tour. As she gathers information for the tour, she becomes attracted to the town and its people, especially a widower with 3 young daughters. It's a hopeless romance because Tessa is a drifter who can't settle anywhere until she can reconcile her history. There are many secrets in this book which are resolved in the climax.
I love the mysticism in this book: the reincarnated dogs, the scary guy only Tessa can see who looks like a coyote, the legend of the seven women carried off by Comanche, and La Llorona - the weeping woman of the rivers.

Probably the best parts of this book are the delicious, mouthwatering recipes which are scattered throughout the story. Food is an important element in all of Barbara O'Neal's books. Cooking good nutritious food has the magical power of healing and revitalizing. 100 Breakfasts Cafe is the restaurant of this book and is the place where the characters go when they need comfort. You will find some recipes for some very good breakfast dishes.

This is a good book with lots of little mysteries, romance, and some awesome recipes.
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