Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The All You Can Dream Buffet

Title: The All You can Dream Buffet
Author: Barbara O'Neal
400 pages, published March 2014
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: Borrowed from Library

I've been a Barbara O'Neal fan since I found her book "The Lost Recipe for Happiness" at Borders many years ago. Her novels always include two of my favorite things: animals and food! While I definitely recommend all of her books, I have a certain fondness for her latest novel, entitled "The All You Can Dream Buffet."

Lavender Wills is the owner of Lavender Honey Farms in Yamhill County, Oregon, a successful farm selling lavender products, honey, and organic produce. With her upcoming 85th birthday and worries about the future of her farm, she invites her close friends and fellow food bloggers Ginny, Ruby and Valerie to her farm for a birthday celebration in hopes of choosing one of them to inherit her farm. Each woman is facing their own unique challenge in life and bond together as the "Foodie Four." Ginny, a cake baker from Kansas blogs to escape from her broken marriage, has never left the state of Kansas and sees her road trip to Oregon as a liberating adventure. Vegan blogger Ruby is broken hearted, pregnant, and looking for stability in life. Valerie, a retired ballet dancer and wine blogger has recently lost her passion for her career due to the loss of family members in a tragic accident.  All four meet in Oregon four an unforgettable experience that bonds them in friendship and changes their lives forever.

What drew me first to this novel was the setting--my home state of Oregon in the beautiful Willamette Valley. I live about 30 minutes from Yamhill County and have spent a lot of time in the cities they mention in the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed the description of this part of my home state, and was pleased with the accuracy and feeling of the description.

O'Neal does a beautiful job of creating relatable characters, illustrating the bonds of female friendship no matter what your stage in life, and creating a feeling of hope in the seemly hopeless situations in each of the character's lives. The story moves quickly and the book is difficult to put down.  Though slightly predictable (as much of women's fiction is) this is a feel good story that is an enjoyable read for a cozy weekend at home.  One of the aspects I loved is her illustration of how close friendships can occur despite the distance on the map.

There are a few things I didn't like about the book--I wanted to know more about Valerie  (she was the character you learn the least about) and I wanted to know more about what happens with Ginny in the end of the story (don't worry, I won't give any spoilers!). I could see this story continuing with a sequel or series, though O'Neal hasn't written a sequel or series before. 

To be honest I'm still having trouble understanding why O'Neal titled the book the way she did.  My best inference is the book is referring to the new opportunities, dreams and goals revealed to the women throughout their journey. Perhaps if you read it you'll have other ideas, but it just didn't click with me. And the cover photo doesn't do the book justice, either--I would expected a beautiful lavender field or something. But that's a bit nitpicky!

Those issues aside,  I still loved the book! My husband and I went on a coffee date on Saturday to a new Coffee and Wine Bar in town. One of their coffee specials is a Lavender White Chocolate Mocha. I decided to try one in honor of this book! It was so yummy. Excited to explore lavender farms and cut fresh lavender from my yard this summer!


Overall grade for "The All You Can Dream Buffet":  A-

Happy Reading!



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