The Paper Palace

Riverhead. Jul. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780593329825. $27. F
DEBUT Elle and her oldest friend, Jonas, share a devastating secret from their childhood that binds them together but also tore them apart. As an adult, Elle is happily married to Peter, with whom she has three children, but unresolved issues from her youth still haunt her. As a child, she would summer at her family’s cabin in the woods—a beloved tradition that she continues in adulthood. Her childhood was fraught with uncertainty—divorce, remarriage, blended families, and her sister Anna being sent away to boarding school. The summer tradition was Elle’s anchor, and Jonas, who also summered in the woods, her first love. When Elle’s new stepbrother came to live with the family, he was a traumatized child of divorce who made Elle the victim of his abusive acting out; Jonas assisted Elle in ending the abuse and thus their secret began. When they come together as adults and find that their bond is still strong, they are confronted by the realization that the lives they’ve built as adults are not as complete as they believed.
VERDICT This psychologically resonant and sometimes dark debut novel adds gravitas to the summer read as its vivid sense of place transports the reader. Will win Heller many fans, especially among those who enjoy Liane Moriarty and B. A. Paris.
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