The Paper Palace is a great summer read for a number of reasons but primarily because a significant amount of the story takes place at a family cottage set in the backwoods of Cape Cod, a truly rustic vacation property where Ellie, the narrator, has spent every summer of her life.
Summer read requirement number 2, it is a fast read; number 3, it oozes steamy romance; number 4, there are a number of suspense threads woven throughout. Top all of that with a seriously dysfunctional family born of parenting styles that are absurd and the summer stew is cooking!
The story opens with Ellie and her lifelong friend Jonas having spontaneous sex outside the cottage while only metres away, inside the cabin’s living room, the rest of the family continues to enjoy their liquor-infused evening. That act sets the stage for 24 hours of pining, anxiety and soul-searching interspersed with flashbacks from Ellie’s life that have culminated in this adulterous liaison. Through the lens of memory, we watch as Ellie and her sister cope with the breakdown of their parent’s marriage and struggle to find filial love and acceptance while being subjected to a parade of parental romantic interests. It is through one of these catastrophic relationships that the tide is forever turned for Ellie and ultimately for Jonas.
The characters are easy to like, even Ellie’s mother Wallace who is the epitome of an ‘eccentric and testy old broad’. Ellie’s husband Peter takes Wallace’s crustiness in stride and is a perfect foil for her caustic wit. There is a veil of innocence that partially shields this family from the hard truths of life and one wonders if it is a blessing or a curse.
Readers Advisory: This story contains scenes of sexual violence and coarse language.