cover image The Misfortune of Marion Palm

The Misfortune of Marion Palm

Emily Culliton. Knopf, $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-524-73190-8

Culliton’s wonderful and sharp debut novel invites readers into the mind and motivations of an unlikable and remarkable woman. Marion has always lived on the cusp of poverty. She develops a talent for sticky fingers and doctoring numbers, assuring a respite from her despair. 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, so Marion relies on her talents to support her family and the lifestyle they are accustomed to. Readers meet Marion on the day she abandons her family, headed on the run with $40,000 in a backpack. After years of embezzling funds from her daughters’ private school, Marion has been sent into a panic by a proposed audit. She leaves her husband comically paralyzed, and her daughters, Ginny and Jane, deal with Marion’s departure with angst, rage, and attachments to the imaginary. 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. Moments of empathy are erased by Marion’s entitlement, and her vanishing act is curiously irresistible. This debut novel signals the arrival of an exciting talent. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Aug.)