Book Reviews

Read With Us: Daphne Hall

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller 

★★★ 3/5

Haunting, Heartbreaking, Immediate

TW: Sexual violence

Miranda Cowley Heller’s debut novel does not disappoint. She tells the story of Elle and her family who are vacationing at their summer home in Cape Cod. Tensions rise as secrets are made and threaten to be uncovered. Discovering Heller is the head of drama series at HBO made me weary; there are a lot of books being written today just to be picked up by a screenwriter, it seems. However, Heller’s writing surpasses any preconceived bias from the first page alone. Her voice is strong throughout multiple timelines and her style verges on poetic at times. This is missing two stars from me due to the multiple occurrences of sexual abuse, especially concerning children. While Heller does an excellent job navigating generational trauma, I question if all the details are necessary. This still earns three stars due to Heller’s beautiful writing, her page-turning story line and ability to keep up with multiple timelines–a personal favorite of mine.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett 

★★★★ 4/5

Coming-of-age, Provocative, Poignant

TW: Abortion, sexual violence, suicide

This story follows the lives of three characters, Nadia, Luke and Aubrey in a small town in coastal California. Brit Bennett carefully captures each character at devastating moments in their lives; moments that seem to propel them into a chaos of decisions. The narration mainly comes from a chorus of mothers at the local church, who insert their opinions and judgment when they see fit. This book offers great representation of POC and is a wonderful debut for this bestselling author. Although the warnings I provide are heavy, Bennett does not write without purpose. The trauma is real and relevant to her storyline and does not feel overdone.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri 

★★★★★ 5/5

Emotional, Luminous, Precise

This is one of my favorite collections of short stories. Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing never fails to amaze me. Her story, “Hell-Heaven” is an unrequited love story told through the lens of the woman’s estranged daughter. This poignant and real piece drew me to the rest of the collection. Lahiri takes on many different perspectives, each as important as the last. All of the stories work independently, but when read together create a beautiful perspective. My copy of the book is riddled with notes and underlined quotes I found to be transformative. I would recommend anyone interested in the nuances of familial relationships to put this on their reading list!

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