I’ve been looking for a book like THE ARRANGEMENT by Ashley Warlick, for a long time. What do you know of the personal life of the first food writer? Are you familiar with the name M.F.K. Fisher? Of course, I had heard of her. I even read a book that included her last year: Year in Provence. 1937. Did I really know who she was or how she became a writer? I did not.
THE ARRANGEMENT, has come along at a great time. Writing about food has become so successful. I mean, we all love to eat. And everyone watches the Food Network nowadays. Sometimes I even leave it on for background noise…
M.F.K. Fisher is actually Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher. She spent the majority of her life in California. But traveled extensively in France and Europe. It was always all about “the food.” I have long been a foodie. I began working in restaurants as a young woman and loved learning all aspects of food preparation and celebrations of the palette. My family totally “gets” it. They’ve all worked with food off and on most of their lives.
Appetite and hunger are a big theme of this book. We learn that Mary Frances has quite an appetite for food and everything sensual in life. This novel begins with a meal, one that will turn out to be life-changing. The way she describes the dishes will have you jumping up to grab a snack without even thinking what you are doing.
The first chapter of THE ARRANGEMENT sets the tone for the novel. We begin to get a sense of the “hunger” in Mary Frances’s soul.. The very sensual paragraphs of this story are written with depth and feeling. Warlick gets us right into the spirit of our characters. No shrinking violet here.
As I watched Mary Frances struggle with her marriage to Al, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Al. But that did not keep me from cheering her on. How often have we known people to marry too young? Yet stay together because they don’t want to hurt the other spouse. Happens.
Mary Frances begins slowly, writing essays. Their friend Tim who is a published author, reads them, and offers tips, then help to get her work noticed. They become closer and closer. While Al slowly fades away. When Tim asks Mary Frances to accompany him and his elderly mother to Europe via an ocean voyage, you can almost see the writing on the wall. The scenes during the crossing are outrageous and sometimes breathtaking. I loved them. There’s nothing quite like your first transatlantic cruise. We’ve been lucky enough to have crossed twice. It’s life-changing.
There are scenes where you will read of Mary Frances’s sexual appetite. These scenes are written with great sophistication and feeling. They help to show who she is. They are an innate part of this story.
Mary Frances spent a lot of time in France. She has written several books about her travels. I am making a point of reading them all. I want to know more about her. This is a good barometer for a great author. I do know that this is a novel. But I feel like I’m getting to know Fisher very well.
My absolutely gorgeous finished copy came from Viking Publishing in exchange for an honest review. I can’t thank them enough. Of course I’m taking THE ARRANGEMENT on my lecture tours this season!