How to Bake a Perfect Book


During this past week I read a novel by Barbara O’Neal titled How to Bake a Perfect Life. This book continues to resonate within me. I find myself at least a couple times a day stopping whatever I might be doing and thinking about some detail in this book which twanged chords of memories from so many parts of my life which is why I think she baked the perfect book.

First of all, I love BREAD. Bread, the process of creating it and recipes for different types of breads are all part of the book. The main character Ramona owns a bakery known for its breads. During different parts of her life, bread, the recipes, the making and baking of it and the recipes that evolve emerge from these crucial times in the heroine’s life or in those of her grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, daughter, step-granddaughter.

Ms. O’Neal’s lyrical descriptions of starters and yeast, different kinds of flour reminded me of my early childhood when I spent much time with my grandmother and asked about the yeast she was always talking about or using as she made bread and rolls. I remembered the kneading, the dough raising, the special clothes to cover the rising dough, the pans. Nothing tasted better than warm bread, slathered in butter.

Bread--

Ms. O’Neal mentioned dark, heavy, East European bread at one point and mentioned its unique and rather earthy flavors. Memories of Easter weekends when my dad would make a special trip to a bakery and bring home a similar-type bread. None of my brothers or my mother would eat this heavy, fiber-rich bread because of the different taste. Believe me, it wasn’t flavorless, mass-produced white bread. He and I would share the bread together, one of the few times we ever shared between us. And it centered around bread.

But the story isn’t about bread, but of mothers, daughters, female relatives and the tensions and joys, the differences and similarities, the compromises and disagreements. It even had a lovable dog. All those also resonated with me because who hasn’t lived through them? They also were great ingredients to create this story.

Ramona’s life hasn’t been easy, but each of her crises up to the current ones in the book have baked her into who and what she is. Just like many of us—if we take the time to see the value of our good experiences as well as our bad ones.  In fact, I believe our lives get better through these difficult times in our lives if we aren’t afraid to let them settle, work their magic and their learning, and emerge even better and more complex because of the stresses and strains that add to our character.

Thus my blog title was born. Barbara O’Neal baked the perfect book with all the ingredients I love: love story, family problems and relationships, a smidge of suspense with the crisis, interesting characters. Even better it made me think about my life as a woman, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, writer. Her use of these ingredients spoke to me.

We aren’t born with the promise of a perfect life. Unless we live in a bubble, have the ability to control everything about ourselves and our environment, and don’t relate much to other people, the chances are minimal we’ll achieve the perfect life. We might be given a plan or recipe that will help us live a good life, but perfect lives like perfect recipes rarely happen.

Why? We aren’t dead. Glitches happen, problems arise, disasters descend on us, a crisis is just around the corner. However, if we keep ourselves open to learning and change, we can take what’s been happening in our lives and environment, work on it by analyzing the situation to see what we could or should do differently, then try out the revised recipe. We might be, and often are, surprised at the excellent result.

I’d say my “recipe” in all areas continues to evolve. Sometimes I might come pretty close to being “perfect” for the moment. But it isn’t easy. If I want a perfect life, I’ve got to keep tweaking things, just like I do as a writer in my books. But I think writing books is easier than living the “perfect” life.

I leave you with a question. Can we really create the perfect life?

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12 Comments on “How to Bake a Perfect Book”


  1. Hey, Casey. My answer to your question…I don’t think anyone can create a perfect life, but they may be able to create a life that is perfect for *them*. Everyone’s idea of perfect is different. The first giant step toward MY perfect life? A maid! 🙂

  2. caseyclifford Says:

    Happy New year, Stacey! You’re so right about that perfect life which is also why books are so personal. What one reader may love, another one not so much.

    As for a maid? I’m with you there. That woudl certainly help out my life. I wonder if we could pool resources, create a model maid and then clone it? What do you think?

  3. Anne Parent Says:

    I want In on this maid. That would be heaven! As for the perfect life, for me it means a happy family, good friends, financial independence, and following my dream. On a good day, I’m in my zone of perfection. So, here’s to more good days than bad ones.

  4. caseyclifford Says:

    A perfect idea Anne, Let’s try for more perfect days in 2011–for all of us. Seems as if you have your recipe. 🙂

  5. Edie Ramer Says:

    I’ve got this book on my counter. 🙂

    I don’t believe in perfection. I’m not perfect, and no one I know is. We all have nicks and bangs, yet for the most part we can still enjoy our lives.

  6. Nancy Kaye Says:

    I don’t think there’s a perfect anything – life, cake, dress, etc. I think we each must find our own way in life. We can have moments when we feel life is perfect, but those can change in a blink. We just need to accept life with its perfect moments and remember them when life is less than perfect.

  7. caseyclifford Says:

    Edie,

    Perfect is an illusion though some things come close–for the moment. I hope you enjoy the book; obviously I did. 🙂

  8. caseyclifford Says:

    Nancy, I agree. Perfect isn’t possible but we can strive to make things and ourselves the best we can given circumstances. It sure beats grumbling all the time. 🙂


  9. I haven’t had a chance to read this latest Barb O’Neal, but as you know, she’s one of my favorite writers. I’ll get to it soon.

    No perfection for me–I stumble all over the place and try to clean up my own messes. I do attempt to live as sanely, happily, ethically, and campassionately as I can, and hope for a lot of forgiveness, not to mention humor and laughter! That’s probably why I like novels that touch me deeply and make me laugh.

    V.

  10. caseyclifford Says:

    And if a writer can produce or “bake” a novel which elicits such emotions in the reader, that novel has worked. It’s a keeper. Since we writers can make our characters end up with “perfect” lives, it’s one of the benefits. If we can work to achieve the best we can be in our own lives with what we’re given, then I think we’re pretty lucky!


  11. LOL – You are right, we are on the same wavelength writing about ingredients and recipes in our respective blogs. Must be the New Year and the fact that we’re both looking at project goals. Good luck with yours this year. You know I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines.

  12. caseyclifford Says:

    Thanks for being on my sideline. I’ll be on yours as well. Now that’s a recipe worth remembering! 🙂


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