Reviews for The Paper Palace

by Miranda Cowley Heller

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

When it comes to making the biggest decision of your life, what matters more: the events of one epic day or the events of a lifetime—though could that day have even happened without the lifetime leading up to it? Elle Bishop has spent every summer of her 50 years at her family’s compound on Cape Cod, in the Back Woods. Ramshackle and in a constant losing battle with the elements, the beach retreat is a reassuring constant in Elle’s life, which has otherwise been marked by her parents’ divorce, a series of increasingly inappropriate parental mates, gruesome stepsiblings, and interactions with lecherous and violent men and boys. Jonas, a childhood friend of Elle’s from the Cape, served as another constant during her challenging upbringing. Elle’s day of reckoning is prompted by a sexual encounter with him—just outside a dinner party with both of their spouses in attendance—after years of a slow-burn relationship. 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 she and Jonas share. Over the course of the ensuing hours, Elle narrates her day of introspection and intersperses it with flashbacks spanning the course of her whole life, with and without Jonas. The moody and atmospheric setting of the shadowy paths and ponds of the Back Woods is described in lush detail that makes a sharp contrast to the colder, sharper elements of Elle’s story. But the long-held secrets that Elle reveals and reckons with over the course of her day of decision cast the biggest shadow over her life and will inform the rest of her days. From the first pages of her debut novel, Heller pulls no punches. Some of them just sneak up on you later on. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.