Cover Image: This Place of Wonder

This Place of Wonder

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Member Reviews

Excellent! I completely enjoyed "This Place of Wonder" by Barbara O'Neal, from the first sentence to the last. Amazing characters, impossible to put down. Examining addiction, infidelity, family bonds, careers, trauma and strong women. Just great. Thank you NetGalley, the author and publisher for the early release copy. All opinions are my own.
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This book was absolutely amazing! I adored this story and the amazing cast of characters! Was hooked from the very beginning! I love this authors books!
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First off, I have to tell you, the last book I read by this author was When We Were Mermaids, and I absolutely LOVED that book, so when I saw this book was coming, I couldn’t wait to read it.  This story is filled with family drama and very flawed characters that keep you entranced hoping for the best.

Barbara O’Neal writes books that carry very raw emotions and tugs at your very being as you read them.  She is a master when it comes to Women’s Fiction and Family Drama.

Warning, there are triggers:  PTSD, infidelity, sexual assault and child neglect which may make this book a bit of a difficult read for some.

Thank you to #netgalley and #lakeunionpublishing for allowing me to read the eARC of this book.  All opinions expressed above are my own.

#thisplaceofwonder, #barbarao’neal, #familydrama
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A famed chef dies and the four closest women in his life are dealing with all the things he left behind with his unexpected death.  Two daughters and two exes must come together to pick up the pieces and all move on.

Told through multiple perspectives, which I loved, the reader gets to see the story move along through different points of view and how each cope with this tragedy.  It was so interesting to read about this man from the women in his lives and how each experienced him a different way.  From his current love to his epic love and the daughters in his life, seeing them grapple with his departure made for an enjoyable read this summer.  

While I can't spoil a thing, I sure loved that I thought this book would end in one place, there was a great twist and turn that took this book in a different direction and I was so surprised when all the puzzle pieces fit together!  

I have only read 3 of Barbara O'Neal books and I am hoping to fix this soon!
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I became a fan of Barbara O'Neal after reading her last two books: When we Believed in Mermaids and Write my Name Across the Sky. She's an author you can always depend on to give you unputdownable books with great story lines and unforgettable characters that you'll think about long after the last page of the book. She writes about families in the midst of major life changes. Her stories are full of conflict, family love and forgiveness and finding happiness. This Place of Wonder is a fantastic book and has added her to my list of authors of books that I'll buy without knowing anything about the book.

When Augustus, a well known chef died, he left behind four women to deal with his death:
-Meadow is his ex-wife who helped him build his fame at the same time that she was getting national recognition for her farm to table cooking. She is still in love with him but couldn't handle his infidelities.
-Maya is his estranged daughter who is fresh out of rehab. She has mixed feelings toward her father and even though she still loves him, she hasn't spoken to him since he and Meadow split up. She's surprised when his will left his home and restaurant to her.
-Rory is Meadow's daughter who was raised by Augustus. She is married and has a family. Her grief over his passing is the least complicated - she misses him completely. She is the voice of calm among the four women.
-Norah was his current live in girlfriend. She is much younger and had arrived at his restaurant the year before to find out how to reach Meadow for an article she was writing but as soon as she met Augustus, the sparks flew and she ended up moving in with him. She is distraught over his death and has nowhere to go once Maya inherits the home.

This novel is told by three of the four women who are grieving Augustus's death. Chapters are told by all of them except Rory. As these four women are held together by their grief, there are secrets being kept that disrupt their lives. They have to decide whether they will accept Augustus's legacy or try to work together in the future. As a mystery evolves about the cause of his death, the thoughts of all the women become more complicated. Can they learn to rely on each other to find their inner strength and be able to move forward or will they stay stuck in their past with resentments toward Augustus and each other? This book gives the readers an excellent look at four women in transition after a dramatic change in their lives.
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This author is quickly becoming one of my favorites for family drama.  This book takes us to a coast town in California with a beautiful rugged coastline.  Four women are dealt with a huge loss as their beloved father,  lover and renowned chef dies unexpectedly. They are left with unfinished business and are thrown together to navigate a new world without him.  

Beautifully written, emotionally graphic.  Characters are raw, honest and develop nicely. 

Thanks to Ms. O’Neal, Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for this ARC.  Opinion is mine alone.
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A family saga peopled with memorable characters that will stay with me. Lovable rogue, chef Augustus Beauvais, dies of a heart attack, leaving an enormous hole in the lives of his ex-wife, business partner, daughters and girlfriend, many fighting their own demons. It’s a beautifully written story of loss, grief, grudge and ultimately forgiveness. Hidden pasts, unlikely friendships and unexpected events intermingle with foul play, abuse, alcoholism and dysfunctional families. All this against a background of organic farm-to-table deliciousness and memories of favourite recipes. This Place of Wonder is a great read about the powerful bonds of family.
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This Place of Wonder opens with the death of Augustus Beauvais. At sixty-seven years of age, Augustus was still the handsome, charming, sensual, and charismatic celebrity chef with a vaguely French accent and "an aura the size of a live oak." Meadow, his ex-wife, fell in love with him when she was still a teenager. Divorced eight years ago after twenty years of marriage, she is informed of his passing by Norah, the young woman with whom he was living for the past nine months in the stately home, Belle L'été (Beautiful Summer), he previously shared with Meadow. Augustus is initially believed to have succumbed to a widow-maker type of heart attack in the kitchen of his Santa Barbara restaurant, Peaches and Pork. Maya, his thirty-one-year-old daughter, a sommelier and wine maker, is released from rehab two weeks early in order to be with Meadow, her stepmother, and her stepsister, Rory, so long as she agrees to attend ninety Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the coming ninety days. Hearing the news of her father's death, Maya is only able to feel numb because the two of them have not had a relationship since Augustus left Meadow, even though Augustus covered the costs of rehab. Two days after she rushed to Norah's side to comfort her, Meadow returns to Belle L'été and callously informs Norah she must leave immediately because Maya has inherited both the home and the restaurant, and will be arriving the next day. But Norah has only about two hundred dollars in her bank account and nowhere to go, so she must fall back on survival skills she learned as a child being shuffled around the foster-care system. Like Norah, Meadow only learned to appreciate "extravagant luxury -- the kitchen, the house, the man himself" after getting involved with Augustus.

Author Barbara O'Neal employs three alternating first-person narratives from Meadow, Maya, and Norah to tell the story of how they, along with Rory, come to terms with Augustus' unexpected death, as well as their relationships with him and each other. As they navigate their complicated feelings of grief, loss, anger, regret, and deep love and longing for the man who meant so much to them, they each relate their history with him. 

Norah never meant to get involved with Augustus. She came to California looking for Meadow after Meadow's book, "Between Peaches and Pork: A Celebration of Sustainable and Festive Food," "changed the trajectory" of Norah's life. She majored in gender and women's studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and the book inspired her to pursue her graduate degree at Harvard and fashion a career writing about women and food. She became slightly obsessed and a bit smitten with Meadow, and wanted to interview her, along with other female chefs, about how they "influenced the male-dominated world of food." Meadow was an enigma. Norah's extensive research failed to reveal any information about Meadow's early years, before she met Augustus. The email Norah sent to Meadow was read by Augustus, who invited her to Peaches and Pork. When Norah arrived and was greeted by Augustus, their chemistry was instantaneous. "I forgot all about Meadow. That, as it turned out, was a mistake." With Augustus gone, Norah must quickly find a job and a place to live, and resumes her research into Meadow's past in earnest, determined to uncover Meadow's secrets and complete her dissertation. 

When Rory arrives at the rehab facility to drive Maya home, it is immediately evident that she is overcome with grief over her adopted father's death. Rory is happily married to a cabinet maker and they have two young daughters. She is only eight months younger than Maya, who was adopted by Meadow after her mother's death. The two girls have always been close, providing each other companionship, as well as unconditional support. Now Maya will need Rory's support as she embarks on maintaining her sobriety outside the sheltering confines of the rehab setting. In addition to inheriting Belle L'été, Maya is also the new owner of Peaches and Pork, but she does not want either property. The house is imposing, situated on a bluff overlooking the ocean, and costly to maintain. Running the restaurant is out of the question because Maya recognizes that she cannot be around alcohol. That means that not only does she have to start her post-rehab life without her longtime boyfriend, whose betrayal launched her alcohol-fueled revenge, but must also find a new career, putting her days as a gifted winemaker behind her. For the time being, however, she will stay at Belle L'été and begin work at the coffee shop where Rory's husband has gotten her a job. 

Meadow adores both of her daughters and is understandably worried about them. She fears for Maya's fragile sobriety, as did Augustus, and is concerned about how deeply his death is impacting Rory, who cannot bring herself to inform her daughters, aged five and three, that their grandfather is dead. But Meadow has a tendency to hover which creates friction between her and her daughters. Their conversations, particularly when the two sisters stand up for each other, as well as to Meadow individually, ring true. Meadow is also grieving Augustus, the only man she ever loved and with whom she believed she would spend the rest of her life, willingly overlooking his dalliances with other women. "Wounded women were catnip to Augustus.' One such affair lasted for six months before Augustus left Norah and married the much younger woman. She has never gotten over the end of their marriage.

Norah has always kept secret the details of her "brutal" childhood from which she ran away. Only Augustus knew her history, and she knew his, but she "chose what to tell the world. It's my story. I'm allowed to leave out what I don't want the world to know." Thus, she designed her public image and biography. "Who I am was born when I was sixteen and found work as a prep cook at a restaurant on the coast." Three years later, she made her way to an organic farm in Ojai, working as a liaison between the farm and restaurants. There, she found childcare for Rory . . . and also found Augustus, who was then still married to Maya's mother. Together they built an empire consisting of the restaurant and Meadow Sweet Organic Farms, were trailblazers in the California farm-to-table movement, and became celebrities in the food world.

O'Neal infuses the story with two mysteries. One involves Augustus's death, which is deemed suspicious by the local police who question the women, as well as Kara, Augustus's loyal restaurant manager, and delay releasing his body until the cause of death can be confirmed. The other centers around Norah's investigation into Meadow's true identity and background. She is determined to learn where Meadow grew up, what her family life was like, the identity of Rory's biological father, and why Meadow has worked so judiciously to conceal those aspects of her life. She wants to write about the ways in which Meadow's early years molded her into the indomitable powerhouse she became. But Meadow is infuriated by Norah's snooping into her past.

Each of O'Neal's characters is fully developed, fascinating, and empathetic, if not always likable. Maya is particularly sympathetic because she inherited her addictive personality from her mother and used alcohol for years in order to avoid confronting her complicated feelings about both of her parents, as well as the circumstances surrounding the creation of her father's new family with Meadow and Rory, and her place within it. She resented her father because she felt he abandoned her -- more than once -- and now has to work through her anger and regret about not being able to resolve their relationship before he died. She is left to reconcile her feelings without his input and participation in that process. Being back at Belle L'été, she remembers her father's big laugh, the nicknames he bestowed on everyone, the perfect gifts he picked out, and how loyal he was to his staff. "Seeing me. That was his gift, after all: seeing people." And sans the alcoholic haze within which she has existed for years, she at last recognizes the destructive behavioral and relationship patterns in her life up to this point, and vows to disrupt them. O'Neal notes that she wanted to explore Maya's recovery without that aspect of the tale dominating it, and she succeeds, depicting Maya's struggles compassionately. O'Neal also credibly examines the ways in which Maya's alcoholism has dictated outcomes in her life and relationships. But now life has many surprises in store for Maya, and she has the opportunity to make clear-headed choices that are right for her, despite what anyone else believes is in her best interest. Can she bravely deal with her emotions without masking them with alcohol, and create a healthy and rewarding life for herself in which there is room and grace for those she loves? 

Norah had a difficult childhood, but managed to secure a scholarship that enabled her to earn her undergraduate degree before pursuing graduate work while working. She got sidetracked when she became involved with Augustus, but her feelings for him were genuine. She misses him, as well as the privileged lifestyle they briefly shared, although she confides to Norah that he had not been himself during the last couple of months preceding his death. Now she has no reason to curtail her research and knows that she does not need Meadow's approval or consent to write about what she discovers. Rather, she is free to work to achieve her dream of being a published author. She is aware that Meadow resented her, and intuited that Meadow and Augustus's relationship never really ended when she observed their interactions. Somewhat surprisingly, she finds herself drawn to Maya, who is generous and gracious to her, and the two young women form an alliance.

Meadow's story is the most intriguing. Through her engrossing narrative, O'Neal offers insight into her long history with Augustus, providing the context requisite to understanding their unbreakable bond, and deep understanding of and immense respect for each other. Meadow believed she and Augustus would have time to "finally heal the rift between us." With him gone, she wants Maya to keep the restaurant open, so that his legacy can live on, but it has aged, needs costly renovations, and is financially troubled. She loved Belle L'été, having lovingly decorated it and raised her daughters there. Initially, she sees Norah as just an interloper, another woman Augustus thought he needed to rescue. But as the women await the outcome of the police inquiry and Meadow comes to terms with what the future holds, O'Neal convincingly illustrates how much alike Meadow, Norah, and Maya really are. 

O'Neal says that she is always interested in exploring relationships between women and in This Place of Wonder she has included "a great mix of relationships -- mothers and daughters, sisters, friends, and the wild card of a much younger girlfriend of the now-dead Augustus, who might have been a figure of disdain elsewhere but walked in vulnerable and a bit lost." Indeed, This Place of Wonder is an absorbing and touching tale about how several catastrophic events, including Maya's meltdown that results in her entering a rehabilitation program and Augustus's untimely death, challenge the women who loved Augustus to evaluate their pasts in order to move forward. Long-held resentments and old wounds, coupled with grief, force the women to confront and resolve their feelings about Augustus, losing him, and their own lives. Secrets discovered must be assessed, taking into account the potential havoc they might wreak and the hurt they have the power to inflict if revealed. Augustus was a man with a driving need to save the people in his life, yet he failed to save the one woman who mattered most to him and that was one of the two things he most regretted. But she is an adult now and it falls to her to save herself. Can she and the other women who mattered most to Augustus forgive him for his shortcomings and flaws, choosing to remember and cherish the significant and consequential moments of joy and love he brought to their lives? Can they forgive and appreciate each other? Most importantly, can they forgive and respect themselves, accepting that their futures no longer include Augustus? O'Neal provides a satisfying conclusion to an entertaining and thought-provoking story about the profound and lasting impact loved ones have on each other's lives. She also demonstrates what an important role family plays in our lives, no matter its configuration or origin.
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This Place of Wonder by Barbara O’Neal is a lovely domestic drama.  The prose is lush and highly descriptive and the story multi-layered as the reader is immersed in the lives and thoughts of four unique women.  There are secrets and lies, grief and redemption, in their stories.
This is the first novel by Ms. O’Neal that I have read, and I am impressed by her great character development and her ability to find the goodness and humanity in each of her characters, however flawed they are.
I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy stories involving family drama and beautiful nuanced writing.  I will seek out more of Ms. O’Neal’s works.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishers and NetGalley for the ARC.  This is my honest opinion.
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I went into this book without knowing what it was about only that I had seen this authors name pop up in recommendations before. I was blown away.  This is a character driven book told from three different points of view.  All three women love the same man.  One as a significant other, one as an ex/life partner, and one as an offspring. Unfortunately, this book begins with this man's death.  

Meadow is Augustus's ex wife.  They started their businesses together and raised their children together.  Norah is Augustus's much younger live in girlfriend and Maya is Augustus's daughter.  Maya is the most interesting point of view for me.  She's a newly recovering alcoholic and has such a wide range of emotions throughout the book. 

This book is beautifully written and really showcases love in all of it's forms. It shows how childhood trauma helps shape us into the people we become as adults.  Both negatively and positively.  How parents trying to fix and protect their children from everything can be harmful rather than helpful.  How we need space to grow.  That while you should be able to count on your support system you also have to save yourself.  No one can do the work for you.  It also shows and validates all of the forms of grief.  How no one person is more entitled to their grief and that everyone grieves differently.  It also shows the importance of feeling your feelings and allowing others to feel theirs.  

The three women are very different from each other but are all strong and flawed at the same time.  They all make mistakes throughout the book but have an amazing resiliency that is often overlooked in women. 

cw: sexual assault (told in past tense), death of a parent, alcoholism/addiction, pregnancy loss, cheating, neglect
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Review:
CW in the book: Addiction, References to PTSD and sexual assault, child neglect, Infidelity 

Augustus has died and now the women in his life not only have to deal with their grief but their own problems as well.

This Place of Wonder is a story of a dysfunctional family. Everyone's relationship to each other is different and when the so called patriarch dies, each one of them has to deal with their grief. The story is told in the perspective of four women who have had connections with Augustus.

Liked: The author handled hard subjects like addiction very well. She showed the real side of it and described the challenges of a person who is always in danger of relapse. I loved the character of Maya and Meadow who are flawed but trying their best to thrive. Rory I wanted to read more about.

Disliked: I did not like Norah at all. I understand her reasons but still don't like her. My biggest issue though was how the author used PTSD in the whole book. It seemed a bit thoughtless on how she used it in some parts. Augustus was not a character that I liked. I could not understand his enigma.

Overall, I did like the book and I give it a 3.5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️
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I found this book very refreshing and out of the norm. I have been reading so many books about women going back to their past, by visiting, inheriting or helping someone in need. The characters in this book are so well developed and different from each other, but with a very strong common bond. Not at all sure where the author was going with this story, but that in fact turned out to be the most interesting aspect of this book! Themes of alcoholism, rape, dysfunctional, friendship, hitting rock bottom, and success.
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When a famous chef dies suddenly, four women are left to pick up the pieces and reflect on their pasts and their futures as they come to terms with the death of Augustus. The four women being his ex wife, his two daughters and his current girlfriend.

Well I absolutely loved this one. The characters are engrained on my brain. Meadow(his ex wife) and Maya(daughter) take centre stage really throughout and are two brilliant written characters. Maya especially I felt great empathy with as she battled addiction and trying to come to terms with her fathers abandonment of her when she was a little child.

I really cant think of anything negative to say about this book. I really devoured it and didnt want it to end. I was totally drawn into their world.

Thanks to the publisher for the ARC through Netgalley.
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Maya is in rehab when her father has a heart attack and dies, leaving her his house; his restaurant, and regrets.  Her stepmother is devastated, her sister doesn’t know how to handle the grief, and her father’s girlfriend is hiding in the room over the garage.  The four women’s lives intertwine as they try to come to terms with death of the most important man in their lives.

If you loved When We Were Mermaids, you’ll enjoy this one.  There are a lot of familiar notes—sisters, a couple obsessively in love, a chef with a famous restaurant and a huge personality, set on the coast of California threaded with mentions of Australia.  
Barbara O’Neal is a fantastic storyteller, knowing how to both keep you on the edge of your seat wanting to know how all the threads of the story fit together and how to tug at all of your emotions.  Her characters are bright and bold, making you want to bask in their presence.
This is my third book of hers and I cannot wait to read more!
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I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Augustus Beauvias a renowned famous chef dies suddenly in his restaurant of a suspected heart attack.

Maya who is Augustus’s daughter from his first marriage is two weeks away from finishing Rehab.

Meadow who was married to Augustus for twenty years is absolutely devastated by his death but she soon gets into a practical business mode. (she was also his business partner)

Norah is Augustus’s current lover, she couldn’t believe her luck when she met Augustus, she thought she was finally safe and happy with a stable home.

Rory The daughter who’s got her life sorted, she has a husband and 2 girls.

All these women are connect by Augustus

I got lost in this book completely, I adored each women individually for different reasons as they forged a new life without the man they’d all adored.The writing style is just exquisite.

It’s a story of great loves, great losses, family drama and heartbreaking pasts.It reads like a big budget HBO tv drama.
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We never get to meet the mover and shaker in this story. Augustus is dead. We learn about him through the women in his life. Narrated by his ex-wife and partner, his daughters and his present girlfriend we are presented with different but ultimately similar stories. Remember, you lose them the same way you got them. Amazing that a philanderer had so many attractors and defenders. But he was one of those men that presents as “larger than life”. One of those men who believes he is a fixer. One of those men who loves and hurts and leaves wreckage when he leaves.

The writing was really good, the story interesting, the emotions real and relatable and yet I was frustrated by all of it. Women who share one man and while they are all aware of his proclivity for self-satisfaction and gratification they forgive and look aside and continue to love him. I had difficulty with that. Family drama, family dynamics, there is an abundance of of that and much of it is convoluted and problematic and that is why the story works. 

Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a copy.
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LOVE!!!!!! I really enjoyed When We Believed in Mermaids by this author so I was excited to get my hands on her new book. I was truly pleasantly surprised by this one and literally loved it. A family drama with a bit of mystery, four women are brought together after the death of a loved one. I loved each and everyone of these characters and wanted to spend more time with them on the California coast. The writing was excellent and there was just enough mystery to keep you flying through the pages. I wouldn’t classify this as a mystery or a thriller but adding in those elements really made this book extra special. Def add this to your TBR, people!!
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Barbara O’Neal’s latest book tackles blended families, grief and so much more. It’s another beautiful story that so many will be able to relate to certain aspects of.

Told through the perspectives of three women, each with their own personal reasons for both loving and hating the late Augustus Beauvais, this book is a gentle read with beautiful settings and flawed but likeable characters.

I particularly like Barbara O’Neal’s ability to weave in elements that awaken the senses. The hot nights, garlic cooking, beautiful beaches… it all comes alive in her books due to her talent for creating a scene and building her characters into it carefully. Description without it being too much. You’ll be transported to the coastal setting described when you open the pages of this book.
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I really enjoyed When We Believed in Mermaids, so I was super excited when I got approved to read an arc of This Place of Wonder. O’Neal’s writing is so descriptive I immediately felt like I was sitting down to dinner with Meadow, Maya, and Rory. I loved all of the descriptions of food, as well as the mystery that’s woven into the daily lives of this blended family. O’Neal really hit it home with the gentle and relatable portrayal of addiction and mental health. I think you’ll really enjoy this family saga. 

4.25 ⭐️

Thank you @netgalley for the early copy of this book
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Thank you for NetGalley for providing me with this book for review. Such an powerful emotional read, fell for all of the characters, amazing, read within a day.
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