A debut novel about a Brooklyn Heights wife and mother who has embezzled a small fortune from her children's private school and makes a run for it, leaving behind her trust fund poet husband, his maybe-secret lover, her two daughters, and a school board who will do anything to find her.
Half of the delight in Emily Culliton’s wholly delightful debut novel, The Misfortune of Marion Palm, lies in the way the book, like its title character, defies expectations at every turn ...Marion’s ordinary appearance and her extraordinary talent for appropriating other people’s money, are fundamental to her character and therefore to the book’s designs ... The plot, taken together with the novel’s short, immersive chapters and the escalating risks that confront Marion and her family, locates The Misfortune of Marion Palm somewhere on the thriller continuum ...the book is also sunnier than that suggests, part satire and part Odyssey into the humbler precincts of Brooklyn...skip from past to present and from character to character as if Culliton had carefully plotted the novel on a stack of index cards and then flung the whole thing into the air ... All of this makes for a witty, sneakily feminist kind of crime story.
Although Culliton has set her cranky and humorous debut novel in the borough of her birth, she avoids the pratfalls of her peers ... Culliton aims to expose the lie of polite society, Brooklyn-based or otherwise, its barely suppressed derangements and contradictions. Locked within each character: an ugly secret self she tries feverishly to suppress, one fomented by her poisonous surroundings...Culliton delights in ripping masks clean off ... Although Nathan’s character could fall easily into parody or cliché, his profound confusion and deep denial help lend pathos to the story. 'Perhaps it’s now time to discuss Marion,' he muses, days after her disappearance. 'Maybe this will sort itself out.' Spoiler: It does in a fashion, in a way that won’t allow Nathan, nor we readers, to soon forget it.
...funny, pointed and very smart. With its madcap plot (embezzling mom goes on the lam), its dry tone, and its sly digs at upper-crust culture, the book does for Brooklyn what the novels of Maria Semple do for Seattle. The title character, Marion Palm, has no apparent moral center and few likable qualities, and yet you will root hard for her — Culliton is that good at revealing what makes her tick, earning Marion our empathy, if not our admiration ... This is a hugely entertaining book, a page-turner, laugh-out-loud funny in some parts. But it is also a study in loneliness and family dysfunction, selfishness, motherhood (and fatherhood), and the sad way that it is so easy for anyone — homely or not — to be rendered invisible.