The Paper Palace has been Elle Bishop's Cape Cod summer destination. For fifty years, it is the one constant in her life. She has otherwise experienced ongoing change with both parents going through a multitude of divorces with questionable spouses and partners. Now Elle finally has stability. A loving husband and three children. But Elle has always yearned for her childhood friend from the Cape - Jonas, who is also married. At a group dinner party, Elle and Jonas sneak away and consummate their burning desire for one another. Over the course of the next day, Elle needs to decide which path to take. Stay with her husband and keep her family intact or run off with Jonas. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn all about Elle’s childhood, her family and its secrets and trauma.
Author Miranda Cowley Heller, in an impressive debut novel, has created a complex family drama that is also beautifully descriptive and atmospheric. This includes the family back-woods compound of cabins appearing to be losing its battle with nature, the nearby pond and the animals that inhabit the area. The characters are mostly flawed, some despicable. This is one troubled family. Life is messy, which comes through very clearly in this page-turner.
But here are some warnings. First, it is not a light, breezy beach read. It’s heavy. And there is some disturbing sexual content. But when not dealing with all the angst, there was some smile-worthy nostalgic mentions - I could smell the Herbal Essence shampoo and Wella Balsam conditioner.
Go with Elle on her journey and see what she decides to do. The Paper Palace will ultimately not suit everyone but will surely make for lots of lively discussions.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Fiction / Family Drama.
Publication Date: July 6, 2021.
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