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The Misfortune of Marion Palm: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 8, 2017
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An Entertainment Weekly "Summer Must-Read Book!"
"A witty, sneakily feminist kind of crime story…. Half of the delight in Emily Culliton's wholly delightful debut novel, The Misfortune of Marion Palm, lies in the way the book, like its title character, defies expectations at every turn.... There’s satire in the notion of a female thief hampered by beauty culture and the patriarchy, to be sure. But it’s a more textured, complicated satire.... Chafing against the roles that society has prescribed for her but uncertain what role to occupy instead, [Marion] joins a parade of recent literary antiheroines—not just Bernadette Fox but Amy Dunne in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Elyria Marcus in Catherine Lacey’s Nobody Is Ever Missing, Lena and Lila in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series—who are casting about, sometimes wildly, for ways to redefine and reinvent what it means to be a woman in the world. As with Marion, we can only hope they get away with it." —Gregory Cowles, The New York Times Book Review
"This debut novel has what many others lack: a wicked sense of humor. VERDICT: With her mordant wit, deft plotting, and clever storytelling, Culliton is a young novelist to watch." —Leslie Patterson, Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Oddly comic—think Miranda July—writing... Culliton's assured and clever novel reads more like that of a seasoned novelist than a debut... Readers who have wished the narration of The Royal Tenenbaums was an actual book need look no further than The Misfortune of Marion Palm." —Kathy Sexton, Booklist (Starred Review)
"Talk about getting away from it all. Marion Palm has pocketed $180,000 from her daughters' school coffers and gone on the lam, no disguise necessary. 'A homely woman,' she thinks to herself, 'is an invisible thing.' But what is her plan, and is she ever coming back? A whip-smart, thoroughly original debut." —People Magazine, "Summer's Best Books"
"If you love scandals and mystery…then you’ll love The Misfortune of Marion Palm."
—Olivia Betchson, Betches Love This: "The Best Books to Read While You Tan: The Betches Summer 2017 Reading List"
"[A] wonderful and sharp debut novel... When Marion meets handsome, rich poet, Nathan Palm, she achieves a dream of financial security and stability. But reality is cruel and Nathan is not as wealthy as she thought… Culliton’s prose is effortless and wickedly clever; its ability to condone and condemn in the most succinct way is a testament to the author’s storytelling and characterization skills... Irresistible. This debut novel signals the arrival of an exciting talent." –Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Emily Culliton is the no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners storyteller we've been waiting for and with Marion Palm she's created an ingenious anti-heroine. Sly, lean, subversively comic, The Misfortune of Marion Palm is a dangerously addictive confection for readers hungry for the intelligent humor of Lydia Davis and the dark elegance of Muriel Spark. This is one first-time novelist who inspires a particular hope: that she is now hard at work on her second book." —Mona Awad, author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
"There are only two questions regarding The Misfortune of Marion Palm: Do you read it quickly or do you read it slowly? You'll want to race through it and yet there is brilliance to savor in every single sentence." —Katherine Heiny, author of Single, Carefree, Mellow
"Emily's Culliton's Brooklyn family drama-cum-mystery offers up a female heroine for whom money speaks louder than motherhood. If it's shocking, it's also refreshing." —Lucinda Rosenfeld, author of Class
"Combine one crumbling brownstone, two children in private school, a clueless husband with a dwindling trust fund, millions of dollars squandered, and what do you get? A mom on the run and one of the funniest debut novels I’ve had the good fortune to read." —Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians and Rich People Problems
About the Author
EMILY CULLITON is a PhD candidate at the University of Denver for fiction and earned her MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was born and raised in Brooklyn.
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But I digress: I thought of this series often while reading this marvelous first novel A) Because, for reasons not necessarily reliable, the title reminded me of the above and B) because it, in no way resembles that series EXCEPT in how brilliantly it maintains its high-wire act of NEVER losing its absurdity while presenting a moving portrait of real people in real circumstances that are totally unreal but never unbelievable
If that sounds like something that can't be done, well, read this
Oh, and did I mention that it is without a doubt the funniest book you'll read this year even though you may never laugh at a single line?
Brief plot description for those who need such things: Marion Palm is "a woman who embezzles', much like Elaine Stritch was "a lady who lunches"
When she has embezzled enough she leaves her husband, of whom "hapless" would be a complimentary description; her two daughters (SOMEWHAT reluctantly) , and... well that's the book, isn't it?
Told from the varying viewpoints of Margaret; said husband; said daughters; this is a great ride
Oh, and did I mention it may well be one of the most devastating and ACCURATE portraits of America today? I didn't? Well, consider it mentioned
SPOILER ALERT....I'M GOING TO REVEAL SOME OF THE PLOT SO DON'T READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW!
Marion is an embezzler. There is no way to sugar-coat it. As the story progressed, it seemed that she had taken things that weren't hers (mostly cash) all of her life.
When she decides to take some of her stockpiled stolen cash because of an impending IRS audit where she works (the school her daughters attend), she just takes off. Leaves her husband, her home, her daughters....all behind with barely a backward glance.
There were a few details in the story that could have been better. For example, when she gets to the train station she finds that she has to have a credit card to buy a ticket (or get the clerks to sell a cash ticket which would draw attention to her). Well, I immediately thought that she could go to a bus station, where she could use cash....or go to a drug store and buy a pre-paid Visa card and then return to the train station.
You'd think with all of expertise in embezzling that she would have researched details better.
It was never explained how she got her technical expertise to steal through accounting systems and not get caught.
I also thought it was odd that she decides to stay not far from her home and rent a room in a woman's house where they are essentially roommates. For someone who wants to disappear and remain hidden, that seems (and turns out) to be a foolish move.
But like I said, I did like the premise of the book and enjoyed learning about how each character was dealing with Marion's disappearance (even though they're all pretty unlikeable), including Marion herself. Her daughters each have very different issues with their mom leaving, as you might expect. But her husband deals with it in his own unique and somewhat odd way. Marion's choices after she leaves her family felt a bit strange, but as I imagine, people make odd choices when they're in this sort of situation.
I'm not sorry I read the book, but I just wish I got a little more from it.
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