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Publishers Weekly Starred Review – December 21, 2015
This stellar novel from Warlick (Seek the Living)
fictionalizes the beginnings of the seminal food writer M.F.K.
Fisher—known to her friends as Mary Frances—amid the triangle of her
professor husband, Al, and their friend Tim Parrish in 1930s Los
Angeles. Though Al is a writer, or perhaps because he is one, he
proves to be a poor source of creative support for Mary Frances. He
dismisses her essays as a hobby. Both find a connection with their
published neighbor Tim, who is married to a much younger aspiring
actress named Gigi. Tim nurtures Mary Frances’s talents, and their
affection soon turns physical. Shortly afterward, Gigi suddenly
leaves Tim for another man, sending Tim reeling. He flees back east
to recover, but later reconnects with Mary Frances. They become
lovers again, though Mary Frances states that she can’t leave Al,
who is at his lowest after the death of his father, unable to write
or find work that he likes. The trio then find themselves living
together at Tim’s behest in Switzerland, shortly after Mary Frances
scores a book deal. Warlick handles her protagonists’ affair with
complexity: it’s clear that Mary Frances and Tim both love Al and
don’t want to hurt him. It’s a treat to find such a beautifully
written treatment of love in its different forms amid M.F.K.
Fisher’s tale of unlikely success.