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The Garden of Happy Endings

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,761 ratings  ·  334 reviews
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 so
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 17th 2012 by Bantam
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 ·  2,761 ratings  ·  334 reviews

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Audiobook version.
I loved this story, so thoughtful and enjoyable. Loved the three women and each of their stories. There search and exploration of what makes them happy was important. I especially appreciated Elsa's journey - her spiritual one and her search for her partner in life. Felt very real and authentic.

Narration was perfect. Made this story even more enjoyable. Great pacing, lovely variation of voice for various characters.
Jeanne Adamek
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! A truly wonderful "Feel good" book. Recommended! ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of dogs and pumpkins.
After a young child in her parish is murdered, Rev. Elsa Montgomery has a crisis of faith. Fleeing her church in Seattle and returning to the poor community in Colorado where she grew up, she finds purpose by making meals for the poor in the soup kitchen of her best friend's church. With the help of a recovered alcoholic and the community they take over a rubbish strewn vacant lot and create a garden. But gang violence is a constant threat.

The Garden of Happy Endings is an unconventionally spir
Kara Prem
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is not the type of book that a normally read, but a friend read it in a day, and loaned it to me, hoping I'd enjoy it too. And, I did enjoy some of the book - there are several characters, and I had powerful feelings about all of them.

The story mainly revolves around a woman named Elsa who has been through a few periods of doubting her faith, including a horrible encounter with a priest who destroyed her dreams of becoming a Catholic Priest, her fiance dumping her to become a Catholic pries
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I picked this up because Gayle recommended it, and then was somewhat disconcerted when I started it and discovered it was about a woman grappling with her faith. This is not territory I usually pursue, as I'm not terribly interested in feel-good Christian fiction. The story: after the violent death of one of her young parishioners, the Reverend starts falling apart, and takes a leave of absence to grapple with her doubts. She goes home to Colorado, during which her sister discovers that her husb ...more
I liked Elsa's story quite a bit, Tamsin's a little less so, Alexa was mostly an eye roll (luckily she wasn't in the book too much). Thankfully the majority of the story is about Elsa.

Elsa's suffering from a lack of faith, made more difficult because she's a reverend, but she still has the urge to serve and help people.

Going back to her hometown of Pueblo, she reconnects with a former flame turned priest, works out her turmoil by helping with the soup kitchen and starting a community garden, and
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Spring is upon us and I can’t help but feel inspired by the lush greenery that surrounds me. I want to open up all the windows in my house and let the healing power of nature seep in. It’s always astounding how books seem to find you at the right time, the most appropriate time. This is what happened with Barbara O’Neal’s The Garden of Happy Endings. I picked it up randomly one night, drawn to it by the cover and title. It promised a certain happiness and calm that I couldn’t resist. The main ch ...more
Cynthia Harrison
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: woman-s-fic
I have read this author since her Barbara Samuel days, and even a few Ruth Wind category novels. She is an "auto buy" for me. A good read always guarenteed; she's not let me down even once. But this book was something more. With each novel, O'Neal gets better, digs deeper, does more than transport me, but more something like transforms me. I'm saying this clumsy, the things she says clear.

Notice I don't give summaries of stories. Today, after finishing this book, I needed to vent. A few of the
Jo  (Mixed Book Bag)
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: romance

I kept seeing The Garden of Happy Endings on Amazon Vine’s Last Harvest list. It kept calling to me so when there were only two left I put in a request. I am glad I did.

Although this is a book filled with religion I would never label it Christian fiction. The book starts with a prolog about Elsa as she turns her back on God the second time. The book moves on to Elsa as she turns her back on God the third time. The theme it really about a crisis of faith, any type of faith and could be ab
I'm not sure what I had expected going into this book. It had popped up as a recommendation awhile ago, and even that I'm fuzzy on the origin. But it had "garden" in the title, was supposed to be romantic, and supposed to be about food, and so I was in!

Elsa is a Minister who's having a crisis of faith; needing to recover she is somewhat forced by her sister and an old friend to come back to her hometown to recover. But unfortunately they both have issues of their own, some of them serious, that
Sharon Redfern
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a thought provoking book this is. Elsa is a minister in a Seattle church who finds herself questioning her calling after the murder of one of her parishioners. Elsa has had a long history of being disappointed by God, starting with her run in with a misogynist Catholic priest in her youth.
After being told by her church council that she needs to take a sabbatical, she ends up working with her lifelong friend, Joaquin, now a priest in their home town. She has a history with Father Jack,
Gwyneth Stewart
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
I reserved this book at my library after having read The Lost Recipe for Happiness, which I really enjoyed. This one did not let me down. The main character, Elsa Montgomery, is a minister in her late 30's who seriously questions her fate after something terrible happens to a young woman in her congregation. She takes a sabbatical (not entirely by her own choice), and returns to her home in Pueblo, CO, where her sister still lives, and where her first love, Joaquin, is now a priest. Elsa gets in ...more
If someone had taken a picture of me as soon as I had finishedThe Garden of Happy Endings, there would have been tears in my eyes and a goofy smile on my face. It was wonderful, at least for me. The main character, Elsa Montgomery, is a minister who is in the middle of a spiritual crisis. Her sister, Tasmin, is in the middle of a marital/financial crisis which is not of her own doing.

What I loved about this book is the blend of several topics: faith/prayer, poverty/wealth, and commitment/happine
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved it!

A new Barbara O'Neal book is an EVENT! Then there's the reading journey!!! I get totally caught up in the characters every time. They become part of my life and, even though I pinch every moment I can to continue reading once I've started, there is always the inevitable ending and the people ('characters' seems a little too analytical) move on and so must I. That leaves such a grieving period for me. I'm happy their lives have reached a satisfying and happy conclusion, but I'
Nicola Marsh
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Nobody writes absorbing, heartwarming, riveting women's fiction like Barbara O'Neal.

Devoured this book in 2 days.

The religious angle intrigued me and I loved how the characters tussled with their faith, which added an extra layer to the conflict.
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'm a fan of Barbara O'Neal's books and this one did not disappoint. Rather, it spoke to me. Love it when a book does that! You can read my full review here.
4.5 stars
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the other books I've read by Barbara O'Neal, which I've rated mostly 5 stars, though it was still very good. I think that's based more on my personal preferences--a story about a reverend having a faith crisis just isn't my cup of tea. ...more
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Another fantastic book by Barbara O' Neal. Absolutely loved it. ...more
Chloe (Always Booked)
This book definitely wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. It's 50-100 pages too long and could've used some harsher editing, and I'm still not sure how I feel about our main character. This is about Elsa and her sister Tamsin. Elsa is a Reverend but she is asked to take a sabbatical when she finds the body of a young girl who has been murdered. She decides to go back to her hometown where her sister lives as well as the one who got away, Joaquin. They start a community garden but that is such ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was good for my soul. It took me awhile to get started. It focuses on spiritual practice more than I anticipated, but felt comfortable with the characters. This author always develops characters with a lot of humanity and soul.
"What did she believe in?. She believed that humans were basically good, but they could be encouraged to do better things. She believed that if each person found the work they were meant to do the world would be a happy place. She believed in an action based spi
Mary Magin
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another triumph by Barbara O'Neal. Her characters have many of the same questions that I do and I appreciate their struggles. I tried the Chicken and Dumplings recipe at the end of the book and it was delicious. ...more
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Very light read which was great on my beach vacay. Not great literature but compelling enough and the romance had a happy ending.
Lydia Laceby
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Originally reviewed at Novel Escapes

When I read the first page of The Garden of Happy Endings and realized it was about a reverend and then shortly after, a priest, I might have actually groaned out loud. In a shocking twist though, I ended up loving this novel – almost from the first page. I was stunned at how relatable the characters were even though it has been decades since organized religion has played a role in my life. Anyone who has questioned the choices they have made or questioned th
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
What to say? Well, this book definitely grew on me. Enough so that I was sad to turn to the final page and put my attention to another read. So, why only three stars?
The story revolves around the lives of two sisters, Elsa and Tasmin. At the beginning of the novel, Elsa is a Reverend at a Unity church in the Seattle area. Having come to the conclusion Catholicism has forsaken her, she embarked on a journey to find a niche of her own, one where a woman could serve as a minister. Establishing som
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2020, audio, 2014
This is another Barbara O'Neal book and I enjoyed it. Each of her books seems to have a focus that floats through the book. How to Bake a Perfect Life had an undercurrent of creativity. This book had an undercurrent of spirituality sprinkled with a huge dose of reality and some religion to make it interesting on top. The spirituality and religion did not feel like the author was trying to convert me. The discussion really felt like one of the characters was trying to work out her own feelings. I ...more
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it
This author has the ability to present conflicted heroines in a realistic manner, so much so that I'm pulled pretty deeply into their plight. This was the case again with Reverend Elsa Montgomery - she loses her faith when one of her teenage parishioners is tortured and murdered.

O'Neal's novels are formulaic. First there's the heroine and her thorny problem that causes her to leave wherever she is and go somewhere else to heal. There's the hunky, complicated hero who has his own issues to work
I read so many different kinds of books that I often only read one or two by authors that I like. There are too many books and not enough time. However, I make a concerted effort to keep track of Barbara O'Neal and what she writes.

Her novels resonate with me because the women characters are strong, but dealing with tough issues; faith in God is usually part of the story; love andfood are always involved and there are happy endings. I read partly to meet new people, i.e. characters and I always e
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chick-lit
This story is about two sisters, Elsa and Tamsin. Elsa has a crisis of faith, Tamsin a crisis of the heart.Both must find their way back from the darkness that threatens to engulf them.
This book deals with spirituality in a truly wonderful way. It gives the reader a chance to look at their own belief system through the eyes of another.There are a fortunate few who have never had a crisis of faith, but I believe they are a rarity. At some point there is a questioning, a searching that goes on i
Feb 15, 2013 rated it liked it
The woman on the cover of The Garden of Happy Endings has the same color of hair I used to have (and still do to some extent). Barbara O'Neal used to be Barbara Samuel and also wrote romances under yet another name. She's good at what she does and has won several RITA Awards. She's also a charming person. She met one of my former book clubs and showed us around Pueblo, which is the setting for a number of her books (including this one). I enjoy her books partly because of where they take place, ...more
Jul 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
I honestly could not finish the book. I got half way through it, but i couldn't bring myself to sit down and continue reading it. I initially had very high hopes for this book when I discovered it at Barnes & Noble, but the story line just couldn't keep me interested. It felt more like a chore to read rather than something fun to do. There were also some things in the story that I found to be odd. I've never heard of a reverend that sleeps around and I'm really hoping that there aren't any like ...more
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Barbara O'Neal is the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling writer of women's fiction. She lives in Colorado with her partner, a British endurance athlete.


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