A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.
Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.
But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.
The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse Review
Fragile, Heartbreaking and Life-changing
There are not many books I can say have affected me in such a way that their words will be forever branded on the inside of my eyelids. In fact, I can name both books and picture the exact moment I finished their last pages and set themdown. The first was The Pomegranate Tree by Vanessa Altin and the second… The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse.
This book has been described by many as ’emotional’, ‘heart wrenching’ and ‘life-changing’ and I have to say that even as a writer I struggle to find the right words to describe the affect it has had on me.
Amanda Prowse has been a favourite author of mine for quite some time now, so when I received the advance copy of the book to review for her blog tour I was more than excited. I quickly poured a hot cup of tea, grabbed my favourite blanket and settled on the sofa ready to dive into the latest world she was to create for me.
However, in no way was I even close to prepared for the pure emotions I was to face with each turn of a page.
Amanda has often been acclaimed for her perfect depiction of real life situations. Her (often painfully) realistic novels do not solely portray the ‘perfect family life’ seen in many ‘easy reading’ novels, but the real life pain that regular people face on a day to day basis.
Her latest novels have touched subjects that range from the often painful and difficult relationship between mother and daughter (in Perfect Daughter) to the real life struggle of Alcoholism (in Another Love).
The truth is, Amanda’s novels don’t always focus on escapism. You won’t find a mystical world created with a handsome man with a six pack offering a lovely girl a drink in a bar before embarking on a torrid affair. They are not the type of books you would peruse and skim-read through while waves lap over your feet on a white sandy beach as you imagine yourself as the female protagonist indulging in her deepest fantasies. Amanda’s books almost demand a quiet place, ‘me time’ and often enough breathing space in retrospect to digest the lessons you have learned.
These novels bring the truth, secrets and fears we face on a daily basis to life.
Amanda’s novels bring the true pain and real life issues that so many of us face from behind closed curtains and doors into the daylight. I have often heard that seeing something in writing makes a fear easier to deal with. As a mother, I can honestly say that this book made me realise a few of my own fears. Ones I never knew were nestled deep in the darkest crevasses of my soul.
About the Book
In this, her first novel published with Lake Union, Amanda tackles a subject which, although it has not touched me directly, I can now admit would be one of my biggest fears. How would you cope if your child were to get sick but there is nothing you could do to help? How do you save the ones you love when they don’t want saving?
Freya, just like me, is a mother of two daughters. Her marriage is comfortable and familiar but not without passion. Her career as a writer is going well and her relationship with her daughters is (seemingly) exactly what she always imagined it would be.
Until, on one unsuspecting day, she is called to the school to be given life-changing news. They are worried about her youngest daughter, Lexi. With her weight dropping and a few fainting spells, a terrified mother listens as a perfect stranger tells her that her daughter may have an eating disorder.
Freya’s life is plunged into utter disarray. It’s not possible! She would have seen it. How could it happen under her nose?
Lexi has Anorexia.
The Food of Love follows the Braithwaite family as they battle with ever possible emotion ranging from anger to denial and back again. The pain in the words on the page is so real that the tears regularly pricked at my eyes.
Now, I am not the type to get emotional over books. I escape into another world as the words jump off the page and paint movies in front of my eyes. I rarely cry. I am often affected, but I rarely cry.
But this time, I cried.
I am a mother of two daughters. Two vibrant, full of life (read:attitude) animated children. Two beautiful totally different daughters who bring me love and laughter each and every day.
However, my seven year old daughter turned to me not two weeks ago and asked me if she was ‘chubby’. At the time I laughed hard, told her not to be silly and that she was in fact a ‘skinny mini’. Something I deeply regret now. The fact is, as mothers, we rarely understand the impact that our words can have.
You see, it is so incredibly easy to dismiss conversations like this. Especially at such a young age. But the fact is, children are so much more impressionable these days. Social media makes it far too easy for teenagers to get access to an incredible amount of information. From ‘thinspiration boards’ to ‘diet tips’ and even entire communities and websites dedicated to helping you becoming ‘the best Ana (anorexic) you can be’. It is far easier to access this poison nowadays than was ever the case when I was a child.
I found this book incredibly difficult to read. Not in the sense that I didn’t want to finish it. Quite the opposite. I found it tough because it was so real. I was given a sneak peek into what my life could be in a parallel universe. What anyone’s life could be like. I found it hard, because it made me confront the fears that I saw written in black and white.
It is an amazing achievement for any author – to make a reader truly face a fear they never knew they had.
Freya, as a character, displays all the emotions I would expect a real mother to go through. At times I found myself frustrated with her. Screaming at the pages ‘stop pandering to her‘ but knowing deep in my heart I would do exactly the same. Lockie, Freya’s husband, frustrated me with his ‘take no bullshit‘ attitude, until I realised it is exactly how my husband would react.
This is no fairy tale book. No easy read, no chewing-gum fiction. This is real life, poured meticulously and precisely onto the pages of a book. A warning to parents about just how easy it is for this situation to happen to anyone.
It is, in my opinion, one of the best works Amanda has produced to date. But more than that, it is an important and educational book. The research is flawless. The characters are so real and multifaceted that they could be living next door.
But – the biggest test of a good novel, is if it will outlive itself once it has been closed. In my case, this is a story that will stay with me forever. A reminder each time I look at my children and acknowledge how much they are eating/not eating, or the clothes they choose wear, and the attitudes towards life that they develop.
It is less of a fictional novel – and more of an educational bible for any parent of girls or boys. The main lesson to learn from it is that this really could happen to anyone. But that instead of trapping the fear away behind closed doors, it is a conversation that needs to be had openly and honestly.
I find it hard to finish this review. Mostly because, as a writer I feel I have failed. I cannot find the words to articulate just how much of an impact this book has had on me. But also as a mother, I feel I should say more, explain why people should read it, entice you somehow. But in all honesty, I can’t. The book has had such an affect on me that I find it hard to find the words.
Amanda Prowse has achieved much more than I fear she even realises herself. She has tapped into the unknown emotions of others and torn down a curtain that hides this awful disease away from the eyes of the public. She has called it out and made it accountable. A truly awesome, powerful and affecting read.