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How to Bake a Perfect Life: A Novel [Paperback]

Barbara O'Neal
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
List Price: CDN$ 17.00
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Book Description

Dec 21 2010
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.

Frequently Bought Together

How to Bake a Perfect Life: A Novel + The Garden of Happy Endings: A Novel + The Lost Recipe for Happiness
Price For All Three: CDN$ 38.27

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Review

"The Rita Award–winning author (as Barbara Samuel) of The Lost Recipe for Happiness returns with the absorbing story of Ramona Gallagher, a 40-year-old woman whose joy in running a bakery in Colorado Springs helps her transcend a life that's anything but perfect. Ramona has a prickly relationship with her large, restaurant-owning family and a deep love for her daughter, Sofia, who Ramona had as a teenager and is now grown and pregnant. When Sofia's husband is injured in Afghanistan and she flies to Germany to be with him, Ramona is left to care for Sofia's 13-year-old stepdaughter, Katie, a scrawny child whose drug-addicted mother is in jail. Over the summer, Ramona struggles to keep her business afloat and find some solid footing with her family, bonds with Katie, aches for what her daughter is enduring, and rekindles a romance from 25 years earlier. O'Neal's tale of strong-willed women and torn family loyalties is a cut above the standard women's fiction fare, held together by lovingly sketched characters and real emotion." —Publishers Weekly

“Envelopes you like the scent of warm bread, comforting and invigorating, full of love and forgiveness and possibility.” —Erica Bauermeister, bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients

“This book will have you smiling and crying and pining for an old love, or just a hunk of really good fresh-baked bread. I loved every single delicious bite.” —Jennie Shortridge, author of When She Flew

About the Author

Barbara O’Neal fell in love with food and restaurants at the age of fifteen, when she landed a job in a Greek café and served baklava for the first time. She sold her first novel in her twenties, and has also published under the names Barbara Samuel and Ruth Wind. Since then she has won a plethora of awards, including two Colorado Book Awards and six prestigious RITAs, including one for The Lost Recipe for Happiness. Her novels have been widely published in Europe and Australia, and she travels all over the world, presenting workshops, hiking hundreds of miles, and, of course, eating. She lives with her partner, a British endurance athlete, and their collection of cats and dogs, in Colorado Springs.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read- as usual June 24 2011
By Mary
Format:Paperback
I just adore this author. Her books are great and filled with love, food, dogs and hardship that turn out well. Just wonderful. Can't wait to see more of her books but I also like the fact she doesn't write so many that it becomes too commercial, written fast. She takes her time to write the perfect books and it shows. =)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  115 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fabulous Book Jan. 11 2011
By Lee Rhuday - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
With "How To Bake A Perfect Life," Barbara O'Neal once again demonstrates why the Romance Writers of America awarded her their top prize for novels with romantic elements in 2010. And, in my opinion, she's baked her own slice of perfection in this book. Yummy recipes and sensual descriptions of bread making and baking will satisfy the cravings of an ardent foodie. Those who want a story about family rifts and healing will find it in Ramona's dealings with her strong, restaurant-owning clan. Lost love and teenage angst play against a hearty dose of war's realism.

The creation of a book, much like the making of a loaf of bread, requires the careful combination and layering of many aspects--plot, structure, characterization, voice. "How To Bake A Perfect Life" takes all those elements and adds a dash of the unknown, a willingness to take a chance by focusing the story on an older heroine. There's a lot going on, but somehow Ms. O'Neal simply makes it work, and the result is one of the best books I've read in ages.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful read July 5 2011
By Pheebie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Let me begin by saying that I am a picky reader. It seems lately almost every book I begin to read, I find myself putting down after a few pages because the writing is so incredibly poor. (My husband frequently hears me sighing, "Life's too short to read bad writing.") That being said, I went into this novel thinking, "How far will I get into this one before tossing it into the 'give away' stack with the others?"
Thankfully, at last, a book worth finishing - and keeping on my bookshelf as well. I won't detail the plot or well-crafted characters, as others have sufficiently summed up those aspects. I merely wanted to put in my proverbial two cents and give this novel enthusiastic praise. (On another note, I don't understand the review regarding 'explicit sex,' as I don't recall any such elements in this novel, so please do not let that critique deter you from buying this book. Perhaps the reviewer was thinking of a different novel?)
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book! Feb. 8 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I had a lot of trouble putting this book down. It was wonderful; made me laugh and cry a lot. I cannot imagine what the one reviewer meant by explicit sex as there were definitely no explicit sexual descriptions in this book. The author writes very well from the perspective of a teenager, and equally well from the mother and grandmother's points of view. I found it well-written and well-edited. The characters were nicely developed and multi-dimensional, and I really cared what happened to them. Highly recommend this book!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Has All The Ingredients For a Good Women's Read Feb. 17 2011
By M.S.F. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While the book started like just another piece of woman's fiction with recipes and the standard characters, I soon found myself drawn into the characters and their lives. How to Bake a Perfect Life captured my attention in ways that many books of the same subject manner don't. First, the author does an excellent job in telling the story from multiple perspectives without disrupting the flow of the story. The author manages to do this without making the reader feel like they are switching gears. Second, while the the pieces of the story fit together a bit too conveniently, the characters are fleshed out in a way that they come to life and it doesn't feel far-fetched. Third, the recipe/baking theme isn't just a gimmick but adds a sensory feeling to the story (as do the themes of music and flowers). While the story (provided by other reviewers) itself doesn't differ much from the multitude of other women's books out there, these facets pulled together make this read stand above most. It's that well written.

There are 1 or 2 bedroom scenes but I didn't find anything overly explicit or inappropriate for the target audience. Because the book touches on themes of teenage pregnancy, depression, life struggles/disappointments, this is a book for women, not young teens. More importantly the scenes are woven into the story in a way that adds emotion/meaning to the plot as part of the evolution of a relationship..not just for the sake of adding sex. In fact, like other reviewers, it probably wouldn't have jumped out at me as having "sex scenes" if I hadn't seen it mentioned.

I didn't give it five stars because it isn't a book that I would read more than once nor is it earth shaking. But it is a book that I would share and pass along (if it weren't on my Kindle). I couldn't put it down and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If you enjoy women's fiction, you should add How to Bake a Perfect Life to your reading list.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book to read! Jan. 16 2011
By Gardengirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed immersing myself in another great book from Barbara O'Neal!
Now I want find a great bakery with wonderful bread and pain du chocolate;
visit Colorado Springs again; and read more of Barbara's older books.
I am not a baker, but I think this book makes me much more curious about bread baking, yeast, sponges, ingredients, types of bread, etc. What a wonderful metaphor for the subplots in this book! Definitely a must read!
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