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BOOK REVIEW – The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

the-food-of-loveYou think you know your children better than anyone else, don’t you? You’d say you were close, wouldn’t you? That they’re willing to share everything with you, and come to you when they have a problem? That’s what Freya and Lockie think about their teenage daughters Charlotte and Lexi.

And then one day Freya gets a phone call from school and is asked to come in for a ‘meeting’ about Lexi. She’s not overly concerned. Lexi’s dyslexic and has had learning difficulties in the past but she’s overcome all of that and seems to be on a steady footing with her schoolwork now. But this isn’t about her schoolwork. There’s a concern that Lexi might be having an issue with food. Freya finds this notion utterly preposterous! She’s a food writer after all, someone who’s always been open about food, especially all things relating to healthy eating. And anyway, she has such a good relationship with her girls. She’d notice immediately if something wasn’t right.

But something is very, very wrong. 15-year-old Lexi has an extremely serious condition. She is obsessed with the concept of taking food into her body. She literally cannot even tolerate the thought and will do anything she can to avoid it. And it’s getting worse. So far she hasn’t been discovered, but how long until she is?

Of course, Lexi’s secret is eventually exposed and her family are horrified at the lengths she’ll go to to avoid eating. And so follows a terrifying journey into an unknown world of doctors, treatments, psychiatric hospitals, forced feeding, tough-love, online chatrooms, support groups … all associated with the dreaded word that Freya can barely bring herself to think, let alone say: Anorexia.

Along the way, they learn that Anorexia in fact, has less to do with food, and more to do with the psychological association that the person has with its intake. It’s about the power one can exert over oneself. She and Lockie increasingly clash over the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to handle Lexi’s condition, Freya wanting to take the typical mother’s approach of nurturing and caring, not being able to bear seeing her child suffer, while Lockie prefers the stronger, tougher stance: don’t let her get away with it, if we’re stricter with her and show her who’s boss then it will all be fine! He feels that by being too soft on Lexi, she’s getting away with something that she shouldn’t be allowed to. But obviously it is far more complex than this.

This is a heartbreaking, often truly painful read of a family’s struggle with a devastating, destructive condition. Amanda Prowse is, as always, current and relevant. She writes honestly and with complete sincerity, making her characters so utterly believable and likeable that you feel like you just want to be there for them!

Highly recommended reading, especially for anyone who is a parent to teens (not just girls!), or who is involved in educating or mentoring teens. Yes, I’m well aware that this is a fictionalised account and professionals would obviously need to read up more academically based research on the topic. For those who are looking for a basic understanding of the subject, this is an excellent place to start.

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