Full disclosure: I almost gave up on this book several times. The writing felt uneven—I’d go back and reread sentences, thinking my focus was the problem, but they weren't any clearer upon rereading. The lack of rhythm kept me distanced from the main character, a fictionalized MFK Fisher, and her two love interests, her husband and his best friend. Despite the tantalizing love triangle, a conflict of which I am usually a fan (in literature, anyway!), I wasn’t sure I knew any of the three characters well enough to care who ended up with whom.
But something made me keep reading. I’d open my Kindle and decide it wouldn't hurt to read a few more pages. And then an hour would go by, and while I still wasn’t entirely sold, I couldn’t quite bring myself to set The Arrangement aside and leave it there.
If I had to guess, I’d say it was the descriptions of food that hooked me. MFK Fisher eventually became a well-known food writer, and the joy and comfort she found in the kitchen are evident on every page of Warlick’s novel. Perhaps what felt odd to me was that the food was more sensual than the sex. Fisher (or at least her novelized self) was more sure of her love of the culinary arts than she was of her feelings towards the men in her life. I did, however, appreciate her dedication to improving her writing, even in the face of her husband’s jealousy and competitiveness. It couldn’t have been easy for a woman in that era to so unapologetically pursue professional goals instead of domestic ones, especially with a husband who positioned himself as a rival instead of a supporter.
With regards to Penguin Viking and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale today, February 9!