Title: The Garden of Happy Endings
Author: Barbara O’Neal
Genre: Contemporary / Women’s Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Published: April 17th 2012 by Random House Publishing Group
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2
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.
Recently, Barbara O’Neal has fallen onto my radar and quickly became a favorite! The first two books of hers that I read (The Lost Recipe for Happiness and How to Bake a Perfect Life) were impossible to put down. I loved every moment of them. And so when I saw that The Garden of Happy Endings was set in my town? I was excited, to say the least.
Barbara O’Neal has a way of captivating you with her words that is like nothing I’ve ever read before, and in many ways this book was no different in that aspect. But I have to admit that I found the story lines to be a bit drawn out, and a bit all over the place. There were definite sub-plots that this book could have done without – in my opinion. But none the less? The story was a great experience.
Elsa was a very real character facing a huge crisis in her life – she’s basically lost all sense of who she is and she is forced into a sabbatical from her life as a Reverend in Seattle. She returns to her hometown of Pueblo – a little city in southern Colorado that is very much blue-collar, where she lives in her childhood home and surrounds herself with her sister (who has a crisis of her own) and her ex-fiance turned Catholic Priest working at a community garden in the rough side of town. The characters are for the most part realistic – although I do wish that Father Jack (Elsa’s priest friend) were a little less perfect and I do wish that the storyline with her sister had ended differently! (But I’m not giving spoilers – so you’ll have to contact me privately to ask about that…)
I have to say that I love how Barbara O’Neal painted my town. She hit the beautiful spots just right, but kept it very real as far as the rougher parts of town go. She visited my favorite places, and gave a very real feel to it! And, like her other books, left me rushing out for local cuisine! I absolutely HAD to have some Green Chile and a pizza from Angelo’s (my favorite pizza joint, which serves as a locale for the book!)
The Garden of Happy Endings is another wonderful tale from Barbara O’Neal. Sure, at first glance it is a bit worrisome that the book has such a heavy religious side, but once I got rolling I all but forgot about the whole God aspect. This was the story of several broken and lost people finding their way through personal crisis and getting back on the right track! I definitely recommend any of Barbara O’Neal’s books to someone looking for a light, feel good read where you can dive in and really get lost in the pages.