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Ashley Warlick
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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.