Published July 2021 by Penguin Publishing Group
Publisher's Summary:“This house, this place, knows all my secrets.”
It is a perfect July morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace”—the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside. Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives. As Heller colors in the experiences that have led Elle to this day, we arrive at her ultimate decision with all its complexity. Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace considers the tensions between desire and dignity, the legacies of abuse, and the crimes and misdemeanors of families.
Books picked by famous ladies for their book clubs are hit-and-miss for me. This one, picked by Reese Witherspoon for her book club, was one of those hits.
Cowley Heller switches her Elle's narrative between one current day forty-eight hour period and Elle's entire past life as she contemplates what brought her to this point in her life. Although the way we are introduced to Elle's grandmothers and mother, all women who had difficult things happen to them which colored how they raised the next generation of women.
The writing is every bit as colorful and beautiful as that cover but the subject matter is mostly much darker and grittier. Readers should be forewarned that there is a lot of adultery and sexual abuse in this novel, including abuse of children, which may make it difficult for some readers. That will probably keep me from recommending it for my book club, although there is so much to talk about in this book. Can you ever forgive yourself for doing the unforgivable? How can strong women choose a man over her children? Can love withstand the passage of time and betrayal? Is security more important than passion? Can one woman really love two men so deeply that choosing between them is nearly impossible?
This is an impressive debut that had me tearing through the pages, even though it was often difficult to read. It often broke my heart and just as often made me angry, mostly at the adults who were so derelict in their duties. But if you've read this one, will you please email me? I need to talk to someone about the ending!
Source: checked out from my local library