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The Secret of Everything

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,943 ratings  ·  395 reviews
In this spectacular new novel, Barbara O’Neal delivers a generous helping of the best in life–family, food, and love–in the story of a woman’s search for the one thing worth more than anything.

At thirty-seven, Tessa Harlow is still working her way down her list of goals to “fall in love and have a family.” A self-described rolling stone, Tessa leads hiking tours for advent
Paperback, 385 pages
Published December 29th 2009 by Bantam
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,943 ratings  ·  395 reviews

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Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The Secret of Everything is a beautiful story about love and family, good food and gorgeous landscape, faithful dogs and a mysterious town. Tessa is a hiking tour guide who is recovering from a traumatic, near drowning experience. As she recovers strange memories from her mysterious childhood begin to surface. She sets out for Los Ladrones, the small town in New Mexico where she was born, in an attempt to uncover the truth.

What a gorgeous book! The strength here is in the real, down to earth cha
Sharon A.
Oct 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved this book. I had been on a run of reading fairly serious novels (The Historian, The Secret of the Wind), and had been looking for some light reads. Just before I received this goodreads giveaway, I had read an absolutely dreadful, formulaic chick lit/romance. So I probably wasn't in the best frame of mind when I started this one. Interesting premise, but unknown author and very few expectations.

Right off the bat I was smitten with Tess. Tess is in her late 30s, the child of a
Kimberly Kincaid
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Another incredible offering from Barbara O'Neal, who is now an auto-buy for me, no questions asked. This book had a little bit of a different feel than both Lost Recipe and Perfect Life, but O'Neal's stunning language and insightful, poignant voice shines through from the first chapter. There's a lot of emotion in this book (as with her others), and I was drawn in on page 2, unable to stop thinking about the characters long after I'd put the book down. Tessa is so wonderfully flawed, humble yet ...more
Oct 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I am one of the lucky ones who won a copy of this here on Goodreads and can't wait to get started! I loved The Lost Recipe for Happiness by this same author.

Edited to add...

I just finished this book, and I was so moved by it that I had to come right to Goodreads to post my review. I spent about seven hours today, devouring this book, and I enjoyed it so much. It had everything I look for in a book...wonderful characters that I felt an instant connection to, a location that makes me want to book
After a tragic accident on a hike she was leading, Tessa returns to Las Ladronas, the town in New Mexico where she was born. Living with almost overwhelming grief she starts searching for answers to questions that have long been buried. Questions of her childhood and the hippie commune where she lived the first years of her life.

While there she meets Vince, a single father who is raising his three daughters, one of whom is still grieving the devastating loss of her mother.

It's hard to avoid su
Lynne Spreen
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tessa, a hiking tour guide, is devastated by a tragic accident for which she is responsible. Shell-shocked with guilt, she goes to live with her father, a Luddite hippie-type who owns a Margarita shack on a beach, lives alone, and surfs daily. Eventually she heals enough to do research on a potential new tour destination: a gentrifying town in New Mexico, and the commune on its outskirts where she learns the heartbreaking truth about who she really is.

I love O'Neal's writing. Her characters have
Dec 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Tessa Harlow enjoyed leading hiking tours until the hike that had a nightmarish ending. Feeling tremendous guilt and responsibility for the incident she goes to her father's home to heal. From the time of the accident she has flashbacks from her early childhood - memories that don't make sense. Feeling a pull to the area where she spent the first years of her life, Tessa heads to New Mexico to scout possible hiking tours and that's where her journey really begins. By meeting people who are new t ...more
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a magical blend of love, lust, grief and secrets. A mix of magical realism, chick lit, food lit, romance and mystery all in one story.
Quick synopsis: Tessa Harlow is a woman who has travelled the world but never truly found a home. A bad accident brings back long forgotten childhood memories and has her questioning herself so she travels to Las Ladronas, NM to rediscover herself by learning more about her past.
I really liked Tess. I was able to connect w
Tessa goes to New Mexico to try to remember some of the blank spots in her childhood after she experiences a traumatic event during a hike that she was leading. In NM she finds more questions than answers at first, but she also finds new friends, great food, romance and a new canine companion.

I lived in NM for a few years, so the descriptions of the landscape (and the food!) brought back some lovely memories for me. The characters really shine in this book. Not only Tessa, but all the supporting
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is so good!! I wish there was more stars to give it. The story is great, the characters are so well developed and she has such a beautiful way of kneading them gently and respectively into your experience; but in a way that you don't realize how deeply they have touched your soul. Every single one of them. Natalie is just the best child character I think I've read in a long time. She could have an entire movie, or kids show done about her. A kids show would be great. Anyway, I digress. ...more
Elyse  Walters
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
"Eating a good hearty breakfast holds the secrets to life"....

Yet, I couldn't figure out why anyone would need a recipe for her 'Hearty Oatmeal' with raisins?
I've been cooking it that way for at least 30 years.

Also, It was the only Soluble Fiber breakfast mentioned in the towns beloved eatery of 100 Breakfasts. The other 99 choices didn't seem to be 'Heart Healthy' (so beware). ---"The Secret to Everything" (caution at your own risk)

On with my review:
The writing was amateurish ---
Carolyn Hill
May 26, 2010 rated it liked it
I'd give this three and a half stars. For the most part I liked the main character, Tessa Harlow, who leads high end adventure tour hikes with diversions for nice restaurants. Sounds like a good gig to me. But after recovering from injuries in a terrible accident on a hike, she heads to the town of Los Ladrones in New Mexico to search for her past while scouting possible future tour locations. Born in a commune and raised by a former hippie surfer dude, she had nearly drowned in the river there ...more
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Probably my favorite of her books so far. loved the different relationships and her soul searching family discovery
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Thanks to goodreads friends for their reviews of this author, which got me interested in reading her, too. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, the first that I've read. There was something for everyone in here. and if you like either hiking or cooking, it has even more. I think I enjoyed the interactions with the animals and the kids the most. I also liked the way Ms. O'Neal did not draw any conclusions, but left it up to the reader to decide what happened, as with Tommy and Pedro and possibly Sasha ...more
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Barbara O'Neal is one of my favorite authors - she does such a great job developing characters. And, she always has a foodie tie-in in each one of her novels. I connected with the adventurous spirit of the main character in this novel, Tessa. But, the storyline was so different I think I'm still processing it. This particular Barbara O'Neal novel is a bit different from the rest.
Jan 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Christina Mitchell
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
And....another book club read. :oD I would have never picked this up on my own. My honest opinion of the book: great summer beach read! Truly! It is filled with wonderful characters and just enough intrigue without heavy language or symbolism to enjoy from bath, to beach, to sangrias on the deck. It even has a surprise ending.

I gave it only two stars because I truly cannot deal with any romance. None. Zilch. That is my hang up. I fully admit I have a broken heart that calls for the constant repl
Jan 11, 2014 rated it liked it
The characters were interesting - all - to a person- emotionally damaged to one degree or another and searching.... The story line, about lost childhood memories of traumatic events surfacing in the present was entertaining, if not finely nuanced - it relied alot on improbable coincidences - so you were either into it or not. The descriptions of the New Mexico scenery were compelling, and there were the requisite steamy love scenes.

As with other O'Neal books food was a key part of the story, an
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
FirstReads: This is the best book I have read in a while. There is something for everyone: Mystery, Romance, Food, Dogs, Beautiful Scenery. What more could you ask for?
Tessa is injured in a work accident, nearly drowned. This stirs up memories of her long buried childhood. As she recovers from her physical injuries, she is unable to heal as quickly from the emotional ones. Much to her father's dismay, she returns to the town where she was born, in the New Mexico mountains. There she meets many c
This doesn't seem possible, considering how wonderful "The Lost Recipe for Happiness" and "How to Bake a Perfect Life" are, but it is: "The Secret of Everything" is Barbara O'Neal's best novel. She is a poet in a novelist's body. There will be so many instances when you'll read a line in this one, put the bookmark in the spine, and close it just to think about her descriptions, to smile with pure pleasure at what you've read, to revel in those descriptions. I had a slight interest in New Mexico ...more
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Decent writing, but I feel like the author was just trying to tick off too many boxes with this book: mystery - 60s history - animal lovers - foodie novel (oh, and throw in some offbeat spirituality and some psychological trauma as well)

I think I was most disappointed with the foodie novel part, as that's what actually made me pick this up. She describes food, and even includes recipes, but there was nothing that made me want to toss the book aside and instantly try it. The descriptions just wer
Mar 20, 2010 rated it it was ok

I didn't love this book because I was either annoyed by the characters or ambivalent about them. The plot pretty much lost me at the mention of hippies and a commune. Also, Sam's mention of evil spirits in Los Ladrones (misspelled on the back cover--hilarious) is glossed over. There is one evil spirit, which he would know nothing about.

Vince's mother needs a whack upside her head. Who doesn't buy a kid an apple, especially when she's begging for one and said adult thinks that the k
Maureen Mullis
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-s-fiction
A very well written and interesting story, THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING tells about a young woman finding herself in her hidden past. The thing I like about Barbara O'Neal's books is that they are full of interesting characters and situations that you could easily see yourself in.

At times she is repetitive in her writing (every fountain in the book is "chuckling" for instance) but that is a small thing. Her writing is cohesive and her voice is strong and melodic. If you like women's fiction I would
Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The New Mexico mountain setting, so similar to my home state of Colorado, the damaged people, adults and children, from an old hippie commune finding healing, the luscious recipes for New Mexico-style breakfasts from the 100 Breakfasts cafe, the love story and more were just perfect. I've loved every one of Barbara Samuel/O'Neal's books that I have read, but this one was truly special. I know Barbara, and she's full of love and old-soul wisdom, and she pours those into her boo ...more
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved everything about this book--the characters, the setting, the plot, the prose! Natalie has been added to my top ten list of kids in fiction. Such a real, heart-tugging child!
Nicola Marsh
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, so richly evocative.
Jan 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
more mysterious then the other ones...this one had breakfast recipes throughout...YUM and the man...vince...sounds PERFECT for me :)
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Typical Barbara O'Neal... Good storyline, happy ending and food! Like the plot twists.
Joan Silva
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fun read. Love her books and storyline
Gaia Amman
Tessa is a hiking guide in her late thirties and she messed up. She was content with her life, but the accident (no spoilers) forces her to stop and reconsider her choices. She will end up unveiling secrets from her past and changing her direction entirely.

This novel reads very well but it's SO SLOW. It was not boring, I was with it until the end, but the narration was trying to accomplish too many things at once at a very slow pace.

There is the mystery aspect of it: what happened to Tessa? Wha
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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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