The Paper Palace
By Miranda Cowley Heller
Riverhead Books, 9780593329825, July 6, 2021, 400pp.
The Short of It:
Layered and rich. This story grabs you and holds you.
The Rest of It:
Elle returns with her family to The Paper Palace. It’s the summer home of her youth that she has visited every summer of her life, but this particular summer morning, she wakes to the fact that the night before, after a few drinks and memories from her youth take hold, she hooked up with her childhood friend Jonas, while her family, innocently, gathered in another room.
Elle is happily married to Peter. Truly. He is funny, and loving, and dependable and a good father to their children but the bond that she has with Jonas goes way back, way back to earlier summers where they both shared a secret that ultimately affected Elle’s entire life. The story is told in the past and present, alternating between young Elle and married Elle and as the secret comes to light, things get tense. How can you right a wrong so many years later?
I didn’t know anything about this story when I picked it up. It was a Reese Book Club pick and I went in blind. I have had a lot of luck with her picks. The Paper Palace was no exception except, don’t let that pastel cover fool you. It opened in a kind of smutty way, for lack of a better word and then got pretty gritty. You should know, there are triggers in this story for anyone who suffered from sexual abuse in the past.
That said, this story held me captive. I thought I’d read a chapter here and there but I blew through it in a day. It’s complex. The characters are imperfect but their demons are real. It has secrets and moral dilemmas and gives you a lot to consider. I must say, the mother/daughter dynamics are very well-done here.
I can’t say I loved this book because the subject matter is tough but it’s a very good read and superbly written. Highly recommend.
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