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The Paper Palace
by Miranda Cowley Heller
The Paper Palace takes place over the course of one day but it flashes back in chronological order to explain exactly how decisions made on the 1st of August would not have happened if it weren’t for the lifetime leading up to it…
Elle Bishop has spent every summer of her 50 years at her family’s beach retreat in the Back Woods of Cape Cod. Ramshackle and in a constant losing battle with the elements, the Paper Palace, as it is lovingly and ironically named, is a reassuring constant in Elle’s life, which has otherwise been marked by her parents’ divorce, a series of increasingly inappropriate parental mates, horrid stepsiblings, and interactions with a number of unpleasant men and boys.
Jonas, a childhood summer friend of Elle’s, served as another constant during her challenging upbringing. The cause of Elle’s day of reckoning was a sudden, unexpected and passionate encounter with Jonas the night before, just outside the house where her whole family and both spouses were having dinner. Elle’s marriage to a man she truly loves (and the comfortable family life they’ve made together) is balanced against the secret-filled history and slow-burn relationship she and Jonas share which is why, on the 1st of August, Elle finds herself at a terrifying crossroad. Over the course of twenty-four drawn-out hours, Elle contemplates her life, the decisions she made and her long-held secrets. How will she go forward? Which life will she choose? Moody, steamy and compelling, I couldn’t put it down!
In an interview with The Guardian, Miranda Cowley Heller was asked about her connection with Cape Cod: The Cape is my place. Coming from a broken family, it was the one place that felt like terra firma for me as a kid. The 70s were, in a weird way, a rather dark time for kids, because our parents – at least as I experienced it – were so out of control. Naked everywhere, joining ashrams, having key parties or whatever. So all the adults were completely neglectful – narcissistic and up their own asses – but it was freedom. We ran around barefoot, we swam in the ocean. Every time I come back, it feels like the opposite of homesickness. I just slot into myself, I’m suddenly inhabiting my body. Her sense of place comes across so strongly. I even googled images of the area as her writing was so evocative, I needed to see it for myself!
A deeply emotional love story…the unraveling of secrets, lies and a very complex love triangle. – Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club July 2021 Pick
Doubly blessed when it comes to descriptive powers, Heller is as good on nature as she is on interiors. – The New York Times
Beautifully written, richly compelling, The Paper Palace is as dark and uncompromising as it is tender and lyrical. Here is a love triangle that keeps you turning the pages, a vivid evocation of place, and an exploration of the one of the most unsettling of secrets. – Rachel Joyce, author of Miss Benson’s Beetle