Cover Image: The Paper Palace

The Paper Palace

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Recently, I read Nancy Thayer’s new book  “Family Reunion,” which I said was like a warm blanket and a cup of tea. Comfort reading, perfect for the pandemic. Despite my shudder when I hear the phrase “women’s fiction,” I actually enjoyed it. So when I had the opportunity to receive a copy of  Miranda Cowley Heller’s  new book “The Paper Palace,” from Riverhead Books and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review, I jumped at it. 

The Paper Palace is the name of the summer resort compound that Elle’s family has been visiting for decades. Actually, WASP-y families would probably refer to it as “summering” rather than visiting or vacationing, but whatever...Elle is now in her fifties and is happily married with three children and Peter, her genuinely beloved and very interesting husband. As the story opens, Elle is waking up wallowing in the afterglow-ish  memory of the previous night. Elle and her oldest friend Jonas snuck out of the multi-family gathering and had mad passionate sex -- FINALLY, after decades of deep friendship and lust.  

Now what? Jonas has admitted he has loved her FOREVER. The entire book looks at what brought Elle (and the other characters, but primarily Elle) to her current dilemma. The story builds to what we know will be Elle’s BIG DECISION. Does she leave her family and current life to be with her soulmate Jonas? Or does she suck it up and make the best of things, accepting that she has a good life? 

Along the way, there are issues of abuse, crimes, tragedies -- this book has a lot going on! It isn’t a warm blanket and a cup of tea. More like a heated throw and a Diet Coke. But it is an entertaining read, with well developed characters and a good plot. Four stars.
Was this review helpful?
We follow the emotionally touching journey of siblings, and step-siblings through hard life circumstances such as divorce, abuse, self-image, and love. This story has lingered with me long after its end. One of those that grasps the heart while muddling our moral compass.
Was this review helpful?
This is another literary fiction novel about marriage and the relationships in and outside of it. I have read a lot of these types of novels and I do think this one falls in the upper end of quality. I agree with some reviewers that the main character felt a bit inaccessible. I wonder what this novel would have been like if we had heard from other perspectives. I know most of us read to get in someone else's head, but this novel kept me stuck in the head of one woman. It might have been stronger if we could have heard from one of these men or her mother. But I loved the rich description of the vacation home and the various other characters who floated in and out. The ending was strong.
Was this review helpful?
Spanning over fifty years through flashbacks, Miranda Cowley Heller weaves an arresting story of a dysfunctional family of secrets, lies, and a complex love triangle. It could be anyone's family--that's what makes The Paper Palace so relatable and relevant.

The novel takes place in the Back Woods along Cape Cod, where the family spends their summers at the Paper Palace, named because of its terrible construction. The story focuses on Elle, her two loves, family relationships, a terrible summer tragedy, and the guilt that plagues her.

Hard at first to switch from past to present, the reader is quickly drawn into Elle's life through her viewpoint and memories. I loved Heller's contrary, hard-edged characters who don't mince words but reveal the brutal truths about their lives.   

My favorite character is Elle's mother with her shameless reflections, never afraid to tell it straight. We follow Elle through her journey to find out who she honestly loves—her husband of over twenty years or her childhood friend. And then Elle makes her heart-breaking decision. I thoroughly recommend The Paper Palace, and I thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review it.   #ThePaperPalace #NetGalley
#familysaga #familysagabooks #romance #romancebooks
Was this review helpful?
Incredibly compelling book that captures the magic of Cape Cod with exquisite, appreciative detail.  Most of the characters are difficult to love - they are prickly, secretive, wry, and performative - but they are believable. This is a novel about family, guilt, the corrosive burden of keeping secrets, and the irrational pull of true love. I found it difficult to put this one down, even though the emotions it evoked (at benign, irresponsible parenting and sexual predation above all) were troubling. A beautifully written and powerful page-turner with a lot of depth - and an ending that will make for some very lively bookclub discussions.
Was this review helpful?
The heart of the plot in The Paper Palace evolves over slightly more than 24 hours in the present day.  Flashbacks throughout the novel into Elle's childhood and youth focus on her summers spent at their family's "camp" on Cape Cod, referred to as the "Paper Palace" because her grandfather constructed the family rooms cheaply, using paperboard for interior wall finishes.  Elle has been in love with, and the focus of Jonas's love, since they met as children on Cape Cod.  through her mother's marriages, and various relationships of her father, she has a string of step-siblings and grandparents who shape her early years and her summers.  One violent act, and the reaction of adolescent Elle and Jonas, change the paths of their lives, sending into marriages with others.  Their understanding of those events, some 40 years on, changes suddenly and leads Elle to question her life choices and whether she upend her life to be with Jonas after a life of unrequited love.
Was this review helpful?
I would love to have a summer home by the ocean, but not with this family. They are very dysfunctional and REALLY should share their secrets. I think the author is a good writer, but some people may not like the constant jumping around in time although it did not bother me. What did bother me was the ending. .ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair fair review.
Was this review helpful?
The Paper Palace is part of a rundown compound of cabins in the Back Woods where families come  several times a year and spend time together.  Elle and Jonas meet before they are even teens and there is a bond formed instantly.  Jonas is someone Elle can share all her secrets and heart breaks with and he will never think less of her.  He professes his love for her early on and it is obvious that she loves him in return.  The book goes back and forth from current time to their growing up years.  There is a lot of drama and pathetic relationships.  Why Elle marries Peter and continues to be with Jonas was beyond me.  This book is a lesson on how not to love.  If Elle had been honest with her father, step fathers, mother, sister, and Peter, many lives would have been better.  Stresses the need to communicate and be honest with your feelings.
Was this review helpful?
I did not care at all for these characters.  And the way the book started gave us no introduction to or reason to like the heroine.
Was this review helpful?
4/5 Stars

What if you did attempt to take that Road Not Taken? In the beautiful sun of Cape Cod, one singular day is the focus. Sarah, our main character makes a life changing decision which brings  a trip of decades filled with legacy, love, secrets and lies. 

Heller’s writing is very well done. She provides a writing style that allows you to imagine the situations and settings as if you were there. I really enjoyed this, especially when it was paired with a great story. I often get annoyed when books overly use the multi based timeline, but Heller did a wonderful job with the concept. If I had to think of one thing that I wasn’t a huge fan of, it was the ending - I WANTED MORE!!! 

I am so happy I received an ARC of this guy via NetGalley. I highly recommend you read it once it is released In June. The setting makes it a perfect beach read!
Was this review helpful?
I love books like this, tales of relationships exposed for the reader. This book could be called a drama or a romance.  Either way this characters stick with you.  Also the prose is beautiful.  I highly recommend this book.
Was this review helpful?
Simply put, this novel is exquisite. I loved the writing, I loved the plot, I loved the characters. The story of Elle and the 2 men she loves is beautifully told in both real-time and through memories. 

The Paper Palace is part of a rundown compound of houses somewhere on the Cape. Ellle has been going there her entire life. We are introduced to the enduring relationships and the trauma that defines a secret and a line in her life. It is that secret that bonds her to the boy she met in the woods. Sadly, she must make choices about her life at a moment when all the pieces come together. 

I suspect this will be a big book this year and many groups will dive into discussions about the issues that are embedded in this sophisticated and touching novel. 

Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this novel. I strongly recommend it!
Was this review helpful?