Shop Thoughts: Tote-Worthy-And-Ready-For-The-Beach Reads


Like any good Massachusetts native, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Cape Cod.  Ever since moving to the North Shore eight years ago, though, I’ve visited less and less.  Why bother when we have better beaches in our own backyard?  The Paper Palace, the debut novel by Miranda Cowley Heller publishing on July 6, makes a strong case for another visit, at least within its pages.

The Paper Palace referenced in the title is the ancestral summer home of Elle, a 50-year-old married mother of three.  It’s a house literally built of paper on one of the Cape’s ponds, nestled in the woods.  It is here, over the course of 24 hours, that Elle must decide if she is going to stay with her husband of many years or escape with her childhood love, with whom she has reconnected the previous evening.  As the book careens toward her decision, flashbacks reveal a host of secrets that affect our feelings about Elle and each of her lovers.  The writing is frank and the story passionate.

As people have stopped in to the store looking for recommendations, I’ve been thinking about what makes the perfect beach read.  The criteria seems to be: from light to light-but-not-too-light; plot-driven page-turner (rom-coms and mysteries are at the top of the list); fits in a tote next to the sunscreen.  Add The Paper Palace to the list of options.

Its summer locale provides the perfect atmosphere and will leave you with a briny aftertaste. Elle’s decision drives the story forward — I truly did not know what she was going to decide until the final pages.  Plus there are shocking revelations throughout Elle’s childhood that culminate believably in a life-altering event.  At 400 pages, it’s on the heftier side, sure, but we just got in some tote bags if you need another one.  And hey, summer is just beginning, right? Plenty of time to finish this one and get on to the next.

However, beach read certainly doesn’t have to mean utterly forgettable.  We’ll be discussing The Paper Palace at the Shop’s August book club meeting because the book also makes a terrific reading group pick.  The book lingered with me after I finished because I couldn’t stop thinking about what Elle chose and I wanted to know what others thought of her decision. What did it mean?  Were others satisfied with this ending or not?  Who did others want Elle to end up with?  Like The Hunger Games had Team Gayle and Team Peta, and Twilight had Team Jacob and Team Edward, I imagine The Paper Palace will have Team Peter and Team Jonas (and do all these teams align with one another?).

We’ll be meeting virtually at 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 10 if you want to throw down for one side or the other.