Title: How to Bake a Perfect Life
Author: Barbara O’Neal
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Ramona Gallagher has found solace in baking, ever since she was a very confused (and pregnant) teenager. She has decided to take a risk and start her own bakery, but she finds more than she bargained for once she opens. Unexpected expenses here and there are quickly whittling away what little money she didn’t invest in the bakery, and what’s more, her beloved daughter Sofia receives news that her husband Oscar has been severely wounded in Afghanistan. While Sofia races to be by his side, Oscar’s daughter Katie comes to live with Ramona because she has nowhere else to go. Katie’s arrival reminds Ramona of the difficult time when she was pregnant with Sofia, and she begins to open herself to what may come, no matter how difficult things might seem.
I’ve really enjoyed Barbara O’Neal’s two previous books, The Lost Recipe for Happiness and The Secret of Everything, so I was really excited when I heard she had a new book coming out. Her novels have a great balance between fun and mouthwatering food and are always warm and inviting. Therefore, I was thrilled to discover How to Bake a Perfect Life was just as good as her previous books and found myself lost inside the world she created.
Ramona was a well-written and intriguing character. She hasn’t always had it easy; her relationship with her family is tenuous and she is hanging on by a thread with the bakery. She never lets her situation bring her down though; when things are really tough, she heads to the kitchen and bakes bread. I admired her for finding such a productive outlet for her frustration. Ramona was also generous and kind, really wanting to help Katie and make her life easier.
Kate was another interesting person. She has never really felt important, never felt that anyone except her father cared for her, so when he is injured, her world is shattered. When she arrives on Ramona’s doorstep, she is not sure what to expect. She is very receptive to Ramona’s warmth and generosity, yet she holds a part of herself back. She is reluctant to trust because she has been hurt so often in the past. At the same time, though, she comes to expect this treatment from Ramona, so when things don’t turn out the way she wants, she acts out. It’s an interesting issue, and is fleshed out thanks to the author’s talent at developing sympathetic characters.
Each major character - Ramona, Katie, Sofia, and Oscar - is sympathetic and captures the reader’s attention. Even when two of these people are on opposing sides, the reader can really understand the situation from both points of view. As a result, the reader gets swept up in this novel and invested in characters’ fates. Will they be okay?
How to Bake a Perfect Life is a fun, thought-provoking novel that fans of women’s fiction and foodie books should love. The bread recipes interspersed throughout the novel’s pages should excite bakers. Barbara O’Neal is an author to watch; I certainly will be waiting to see what she comes up with next.