THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET– Barbara O'Neal
A Perfect 10
Yamhill County in Oregon's Willamette Valley – the Present
I hope you will pardon me if my review of this delicious book is full of allusion to food…I can't resist. It stars four talented women who call themselves the “Foodie Four.” The ladies met online by following each other's blogs. Lavender Wills is the senior of the group. She owns the all-organic Lavender Honey Farms where, among other things, she produces byproducts of the lavender growing in her vast fields, her bees produce honey, and her free-range chickens produce eggs. Lavender is soon to celebrate her eighty-fifth birthday, but she needs to choose an heir who will keep up the farm she has devoted almost half her life to. To that end, she invites the other three foodies to come for a visit that will culminate with a birthday bash.
Ginny Smith's Cake of Dreams blog featuring her wonderful photography and commentary has become a great success, even prosperous. She longs to go to Lavender Farm to escape her circumscribed life in Dead Gulch, but has she the courage? She's never been anywhere, never even left Kansas. Her daughter is away pursuing a medical career; Ginny's remote husband doesn't want her to go, but Ginny longs for new sights…and maybe even a bit of adventure.
As a child, Ruby Zarlingo fought a hard battle to stay alive and won. She's now a young woman, with a cheery nature and caring heart, who has suddenly been dumped by her boyfriend of six years. Ruby is a total vegan, and her The Flavor of a Blue Moon blog reflects that. She plans to join her friends at Lavender's place.
Valerie and her fourteen year-old daughter are already traveling, touring the country in an effort to recover from the tragic plane crash that took the rest of their family. Valerie used to blog about wine, but hasn't added to it since the tragedy. Will she and Hannah detour to Oregon?
As the friends travel toward Lavender Farm, pulling their respective trailers from different directions, they already begin to learn some things about themselves. Photos, blog samples, recipes, and emails are interspersed within the stories about the ladies.
Much of the novel bounces between Ginny's and Ruby's tales. These thoroughly entertain with moving plotlines and rich character development. Not all the characters in THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET are female. Men also play important parts…some you won't like, but some you'll love.
I can't recommend this beautifully written novel enough. It has a deep base of warmth, a cupful of humor, a generous dollop of romance, and a gentle dash of the other worldly. And, I've found a new-to-me author to savor!