Do you dream of do-overs? Do-overs at work, in love…Would you grab the chance if you could? When 50-year-old Elle returns to her family’s summer home and reconnects with her childhood love, she must decide what her future will look like. Miranda Cowley Heller’s astonishing debut novel is an utterly compelling story of love and desire, secrets and lies and paths not taken, perfect for reading at home or on the beach, like Commonwealth by Ann Patchett or The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.
“This house, this place, knows all my secrets.”
A story of summer, secrets, love, and lies: in the course of a singular day on Cape Cod, one woman must make a life-changing decision that has been brewing for decades.
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.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Reading Group Guide
1. In The Paper Palace, desire and duty are put to the test when Elle Bishop has to choose between the life she always believed she was meant to have with her oldest friend Jonas, and the life she has with her loving husband Peter. Compare and contrast Elle’s relationship with both. What does she get from each?
2. The novel is set in Cape Cod, a setting the author describes with vivid intimacy. In what ways has this place grounded and shaped the lives of the Bishops?
3. The Paper Palace unfolds over twenty-four hours, and fifty years: one day in Elle’s life, and the moments that lead to this day. What do we gain through multiple timelines that we otherwise would not?
4. In the multigenerational story, we see the reverberations of the choices made by grandparents and parents, and the scars they have left on Elle herself. In what way do those scars reveal themselves, and is it possible to break the cycle?
5. The individuals who find themselves at The Paper Palace are as susceptible to the elements as the house is. Consider adult Elle and Jonas’s intimate beach scene, their dangerous sailing trip, etc. What role do nature and the weather play in the story? How is the outside, natural world used to echo Elle’s interior journey?
6. Secrets are at the heart of the novel: the acts that create them, the decisions to keep them hidden. What is the outcome of keeping secrets and how do we see that play out within the novel? Why do you think Elle keeps the secrets that she does from her family? From Peter? Think of a time when you kept a secret. Was it harmful or helpful?
7. The novel is called The Paper Palace. Why? What parallels exist between the camp and the people who inhabit it?
8. How did you interpret the ending? For you, was the major plot of the novel about Elle choosing between two men, or choosing different versions of herself? Explain.