When Maxine ‘Max’ Mayberry’s life falls apart around her, she doesn’t just get mad… she gets hungry.
When Max discovers her long-term boyfriend Scott in bed with a glamorous ad executive from her work, her life begins to fall apart. Not to mention that she’s recently discovered that she has a brain tumour and needs surgery. Her family and friends rally around her as she settles in to pick up the pieces, moving in with her best friend Alice. But, it seems that Scott is a harder demon to exorcise from her life than she had planned on, as Max lugs the copy of his family’s prized cookbook into her new life, a symbol of both her acceptance by the Laurent family and the night she was betrayed.
Max works in advertising, but her heart lies in writing. She’s been working on a fantasy novel for years. But, Scott, himself a comedian, has never supported her creative ambitions. When Alice suggests that Max experiments with Tinder as a way of taking her mind off things, she may just find she finally has something to write about when she begins a competitive cooking challenge with one of her matches called the ‘Fork Him’ project.
Full of sumptuous descriptions of food, and terrifying descriptions of medical tests and hospitals, Duck a l’Orange for Breakfast is a transporting and uplifting debut print novel by Sydney-based writer Karina May. This novel is frequently funny and extremely frank. It’s the book-based equivalent of that one friend who tells it how it is. From the authentic portrayal of text-based conversations between Max and her online love interest-slash-cooking partner, Johnny (no easy thing to pull off!) to Max’s charming habit of people watching at IKEA, Duck a l’Orange For Breakfast feels both comfortingly familiar and strikingly original. Readers everywhere will fall for Max as she tries to navigate her new life.
While the plotting of this novel doesn’t follow a typical arc, there is never a moment where it feels like the author is not in control of her narrative. From the early days of the Fork Him project, to the backstory of Scott and Max’s break-up, to a brief sojourn in Paris (complete with much fromage and a few chickens) and then back home again, I wanted to follow this charming story wherever it wanted to take me.
I loved that Johnny was an unconventional love interest too. I pictured him not as the chiselled sex-God of stereotypes past, but as a huskier, bearded man with kind eyes and a self-conscious sense of humour that he was willing to push past in order to get to know Max. (In comparison, Scott was a very recognisable ex-boyfriend type with an overbearing mother and a tendency to force an incredible woman to hide her light so that he could feel better about his own mediocrity.) The characters really made this book, but they were just one standout part of a great read.
Be warned, however. This is one book you don’t want to read on an empty stomach. While not all of the fourteen recipes Johnny and Max cook are desserts, you will find yourself craving a light, buttery croissant by the final chapter. Read this one if you like Beth O’Leary.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Karina May’s Duck a l’Orange for Breakfast is out now from Macmillan Australia. Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE.