Tag Archives: Riverhead

Review: The Paper Palace

The Paper Palace

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.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half
By Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books, 9780525536291, June 2020, 352pp.

The Short of It:

The Vanishing Half is a book that must be discussed.

The Rest of It:

Stella and Desiree are twins, living in the small (fictional) town of Mallard, Louisiana. This town is known for its black, light-skinned inhabitants. As young children, they witness the murder of their father by a group of angry white men, and from that point on, the girls, each affected in different ways, step out of their familiar surroundings to begin lives outside of Mallard.

At first, they do this together. Taking odd jobs, sleeping on floors and eventually making a place of their own to call home. But Stella wants more and eventually leaves Desiree behind to pursue what she feels is a better life. A life that should not be held from her, just because she’s black. Desiree is hurt by the abandonment but at the time, doesn’t fully understand Stella’s choices. All she wants throughout the years is to find her sister once again.

This story is told in several parts and jumps into the present day as we meet Jude and Kennedy, the children of Desiree and Stella. We also meet their significant others and as readers, we are brought into Stella’s world as she makes the decision to pass for white. One day, Stella is mistaken for white and just goes along with  it. The concept of “passing” is one that affects more than just Stella as the story unfolds.

The Vanishing Half is a story about identity. Racial identity as well as gender identity (one of the characters, one of my favorite characters is transgendered). These characters are trying to find their way and their true selves and not without a lot of struggle. Some of Stella’s choices will anger you but Bennett wrote her in such a way, that you can’t hold her choices against her. She feels regret for her decisions but as readers we also see why she made these decisions to begin with.

I really liked how the story was structured and how balanced it was. I appreciated the decision to move the characters to California, particularly Los Angeles because as I can tell you, Los Angeles is accepting of a lot and it’s a place where people find themselves all the time. People can be whatever they want here, so having some of the story set in Los Angeles made sense. I really enjoyed the writing and I was lucky enough to be told about the Los Angeles Times Book Club interview with Bennett right after finishing the book so I got to hear her take on the book and it was just a great talk.

I highly recommend The Vanishing Half. Now, I really want to read her first book, The Mothers.

This book completes my summer reading list!

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.