I like to surprise myself now and then by venturing outside my usual literary stamping ground. I first ‘discovered’ Amanda Prowse when she became the latest big name author to join my publisher, Lake Union Publishing. Her back catalogue and the loyalty of her fan base made me curious about the ‘Queen of Family Drama’ - and what I might learn from her writing.
The Food of Love tells the story of the Braithwaites, a regular if somewhat bohemian family who don't have much money but compensate with a love of life and each other. Freya spends her days cooking and writing about food. When she’s called to her youngest daughter’s school by a teacher who suspects that Lexi may have an eating disorder, mum dismisses the concern. After all, who knows more about nutrition and healthy eating than a food journalist?
What ensues is a heart-wrenching and uncompromising portrayal of the way anorexia can tear apart a life and a family. Amanda Prowse has spoken of the research that goes into her ‘big issue’ novels, and you can feel it throughout The Food of Love: Freya and Lexi perform an intricate dance of secrets and lies, revealing the devious and destructive nature of the illness. Freya also displays the self-delusion of a parent who doesn't want to hear the truth—while this makes her character unsympathetic at times, I applaud Prowse for not offering easy solutions to a complex issue.
By its very nature, the subject of anorexia — whereby the patient may improve only to relapse — gives the novel a repetitive feel. Prose offsets that spiral with a mystery sub-plot—Freya, the father and the older sister write letters to Lexi ahead of an unspecified event. Could it be a wedding, a graduation - heaven forbid, a funeral? It keeps the action moving even while circling the main issue.
The Food of Love will interest readers who like the emotional lives of characters in the forefront of the drama.