Title: The All You Can Dream Buffet
Author: Barbara O’Neal
Publisher: Random House
Pub date: 4 March 2014
Popular blogger and foodie queen Lavender Wills reigns over Lavender Honey Farms, a serene slice of organic heaven nestled in Oregon wine country. Lavender is determined to keep her legacy from falling into the profit-driven hands of uncaring relatives, and she wants an heir to sustain her life’s work after she’s gone. So she invites her three closest online friends—fellow food bloggers, women of varied ages and backgrounds—out to her farm. She hopes to choose one of them to inherit it—but who?
There’s Ginny, the freckle-faced Kansas cake baker whose online writing is about to lead her out of a broken marriage and into a world of sensual delights. And Ruby, young, pregnant, devoted to the organic movement, who’s looking for roots—and the perfect recipe to heal a shattered heart. Finally, Val, smart and sophisticated, a wine enthusiast who needs a fresh start for her teenage daughter after tragedy has rocked their lives. Coming together will change the Foodie Four in ways they could never have imagined, uniting them in love and a common purpose. As they realize that life doesn’t always offer a perfect recipe for happiness, they also discover that the moments worth savoring are flavored with some tears, a few surprises, and generous helping of joy.
The All You Can Dream Buffet was wonderfully written. O’Neal’s descriptions are poetic in their beauty, and she obviously did a great deal of research into the working of organic farms and lavender farms.
Of the four women, the Foodie Four, which the story follows, Ruby and Ginny are the two who get the most page time and whose stories are most compelling. We get less in-depth insight into Lavender and Val, although all four women add to the plot and it was a pleasure to read about them all. O’Neal uses blogs (all four women are bloggers) to illustrate some of the plot, as well as recipes and photos.
Lavender is about to turn 85, and she knows her nephews, who are city-dwellers, are going to sell her farm when they inherit, and the conditions of Lavender’s own inheritance of the farm was that it pass on to her next living relatives. I didn’t understand how they could then sell it on to someone outside the family, that isn’t explained, but that’s exactly what Lavender thinks they will do, and that they will sell it to her neighbour, a man who will destroy all her hard work in making the farm organic, and simply incorporate it into his existing land.
In order to find someone who will fall in love with her farm and who she can trust to continue to run it using organic methods, Lavender invites her three blogging friends to her birthday party, hoping one of them will be willing to take on the farm and buy it from her nephews when she dies.
The journey to get to the farm is a huge hurdle for Ginny, a late-forties cake blogger who has spent her life trying to please others, and always feeling like she’s fallen short. She has made a spectacular success of her blog, but none of her friends and family care or understand what an achievement that is. As she sets off to Lavender’s farm, she starts on a journey to self-discovery, and has to find the strength and will to break free.
Ruby is pregnant and unsure what she wants out of life. Still caught up in the betrayal of her ex-boyfriend, and not knowing what she really wants from life, the trip to Lavender’s farm is one which she uses to discover her path and finally break free of the hold her old lover has on her.
This is a real feel-good story, but I would have loved it if the author had explored some aspects a little more, like what Noah’s secret was (we never learn), and I’d have liked Ginny to have had a real show down with her husband, and force him to admit how bad his behaviour had been and explain himself, but that’s probably just me wanting Ginny to get the explanation she truly deserved after all those years of trying so hard.
This is a great women’s fiction novel, and I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by: Tara