I didn’t quite know what to expect when I picked up author, Emily Culliton’s, debut novel, THE MISFORTUNE of MARION PALM (Knopf). All I knew is that it was heralded one of those must-reads at BookExpo and it’s been written up in just about every magazine as a must, must-be-read!
Marion Palm steals money – from people and institutions, doesn’t matter. But she doesn’t like to think of herself as thief, but rather “a woman who embezzles.” Over the years she’s managed to steal $180,000 from her daughters’ private school. She’s used a lot of that money to pay for all kinds of things the Palms don’t necessarily need – trips, exercise equipment, a fancy top-of-the-line refrigerator.
Marion is married to Nathan Palm. He lives off his great-grandfather’s dwindling trust-fund, published a book of poems years ago, and can’t seem to write another word. Their two daughters, 13 year-old, Ginny and 8 year-old, Jane like to climb the big tree in the backyard and peer into other people’s homes.
One day, Marion Palm decides to leave her husband and children behind in Brooklyn Heights. She stuffs the $40,000 she has left from the $180,000 into one of her daughters’ knapsacks. With the cash safely stashed, she takes Ginny and Jane to a Greek restaurant to say good-bye. When they’re finished, she sends her girls out of the restaurant and then she escapes without paying the $27 check.
From then on, Marion Palm is on the lam, roaming the streets, hanging out in Apple stores. She leaves Nathan, Ginny and Jane to deal with detectives and really angry school board members who realize she’s embezzled from them and want the money back – now!
Marion navigates between Brooklyn, Manhattan and finally Coney Island, where she rents a room from Sveyta. Once Marion meets Sveyta things go downhill pretty fast. Russians don’t like their money unknowingly misappropriated.
The narrative of THE MISFORTUNE of MARION PALM alternates between Marion, hopeless Nathan, Ginny, who just wants to be in love and Jane, who is obsessed with an invisible boy. The chapters are short, the writing pithy and the irony smacks you in the face unmercifully.
I loved THE MISFORTUNE of MARION PALM. Reading Emily Culliton’s, novel reminded me of the brilliant writer, Lydia Davis, who never leaves an unneeded word on a page.
I simply cannot wait until Emily’s next novel.
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.
We have one copy signed by Emily Culliton to giveaway. Just tell us what comes to your mind when you think of your mother. We’ll announce a winner next week.