In a novel as warm and embracing as a family kitchen, Barbara O’Neal explores the poignant, sometimes complex relationships between mothers and daughters—and the healing magic of homemade bread.
Professional baker Ramona Gallagher is a master of an art that has sustained her through the most turbulent times, including a baby at fifteen and an endless family feud. But now Ramona’s bakery threatens to crumble around her. Literally. She’s one water-heater disaster away from losing her grandmother’s rambling Victorian and everything she’s worked so hard to build.
When Ramona’s soldier son-in-law is wounded in Afghanistan, her daughter, Sophia, races overseas to be at his side, leaving Ramona as the only suitable guardian for Sophia’s thirteen-year-old stepdaughter, Katie. Heartbroken, Katie feels that she’s being dumped again—this time on the doorstep of a woman out of practice with mothering.
Ramona relies upon a special set of tools—patience, persistence, and the reliability of a good recipe—when rebellious Katie arrives. And as she relives her own history of difficult choices, Ramona shares her love of baking with the troubled girl. Slowly, Katie begins to find self-acceptance and a place to call home. And when a man from her past returns to offer a second chance at love, Ramona discovers that even the best recipe tastes better when you add time, care, and a few secret ingredients of your own
A good friend of mine knows I love baking (especially bread) and suggested How to Bake a Perfect Life to me. Barbara O’Neal is a local author here in Southern Colorado, so I can’t tell you why I have waited so long to read her books!! From the moment I started reading I was absolutely captivated by the cast, as well as the setting of Southern Colorado! (It’s always fun to read about familiar places!)
Barbara O’Neal’s writing style is beautiful, to put it simply. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book where I felt like I was seeing every little nook and cranny of the story, felt as though I was walking down the street with the characters. Her descriptions are so clear and concise. And the bread recipes that she threw in? I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and get started baking!
The characters in this book are just as wonderful as the lush writing. Ramona, our main character, is so very real. Despite living in a privileged family, she’s had a rough life – including giving birth at 15, and eventually going through a horrible divorce in which her family sided with her ex-husband. Yet, she’s determined to find happiness with her new bakery and prove to her family that she is just fine – without them. Her daughter Sophia, who we mostly see only through phone calls and journal entries, is very pregnant and her husband has been wounded in action. When Sophia rushes to his bedside, Romona takes responsibility for Katie (Sophia’s step-daughteR) who is a very troubled teenager.
These characters are so beautifully written, so real that you can’t help but feel for them. And you toss in the fabulous aunts (Poppy and Nancy) and swoon-worthy Jonah, the boy at the record store? This is a cast of characters that I won’t soon forget.
How to Bake a Perfect Life was a wonderful read, I couldn’t put it down wanting to see how these lives turned out. As beautiful as the classical music which Romona and Jonah both love, this book will keep you turning the pages and hoping for everyone to find their perfect life at the end. If you’re looking for a touching story, full of emotion and very character driven? Then Barbara O’Neals How to Bake a Perfect Life is the book for you!