The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton

The Misfortune of Marion Palm

Emily Culliton

A wonderful and sharp debut novel that has been declared a "Summer Must-Read Book!" by Entertainment Weekly.

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A wildly entertaining debut 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.

Marion Palm prefers not to think of herself as a thief but rather "a woman who embezzles." Over the years she has managed to steal $180,000 from her daughters' private school, money that has paid for European vacations, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, and perpetually unused state-of-the-art exercise equipment. But, now, when the school faces an audit, Marion pulls piles of rubber-banded cash from their basement hiding places and flees, leaving her family to grapple with the baffled detectives, the irate school board, and the mother-shaped hole in their house. Told from the points of view of Nathan, Marion's husband, heir to a long-diminished family fortune; Ginny, Marion's teenage daughter who falls helplessly in love at the slightest provocation; Jane, Marion's youngest who is obsessed with a missing person of her own; and Marion herself, on the lam--and hiding in plain sight.

Advance Galley Reviews

The marketing for The Misfortune of Marion Palm promises wit and humor. Sadly, I find neither in the book. It is a sad snapshot of a family with unlikable characters who generate neither interest nor empathy. The marketing also promises an adventurous "bad girl" heroine. I am all for "bad girl" heroines to cheer for. However, I find myself not cheering for this one. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

When I began this novel, I thought it would for sure be one of those cases where I'm rooting for the criminal aka Marion. This novel was being sold as "wildly entertaining" which I interpreted as humorous. However, it was not. The novel started off interestingly enough, with Marion deserting her kids in a store. The novel is told from various perspectives: that of Marion, that of her husband, that of each of her kids, the detective assigned her case, and also that of some board members. While I admit that the story and the characters are quirky, this novel was a lot darker than I had expected. I had no sympathy for Marion or for her husband, as they were both quite despicable characters with no consideration for their children. I liked the children and they were the ones I sympathized with the most; they were innocents caught up in something that they didn't deserve. I think my issue with this novel was that I couldn't connect with the main character. She just seemed so distant and while I could understand her behaviour and motivations, I couldn't feel the things she did and that made the story fall a little flat for me. This is a novel that cynical people who like dark humor would enjoy. While I enjoy dark humor, it wasn't what I was expecting and that may be the reason I didn't love this novel. Nevertheless, I'm giving this book a 3/5 stars from me!

Misfortune is the word for this book. I found it misfortunate that Marion is so selfish when it comes to her family, that it's really hard to like her or feel sorry for her. I found it misfortunate that the school she works for has used her instead of hiring someone to do their books, and trusted her enough so that she could isolate herself that she could steal school funds without anyone noticing. I found it misfortunate that Marion's husband has been so focused on his own life and his many affairs that he doesn't notice his wife is miserable. However, all this misfortune is told in a way that you get dragged into the story, then get pulled In deeper with the story within the story that Marion's daughter, Jane is living. I do enjoy that when Marion leaves, her husband finds a way to deal with his sadness by redefining himself, although I don't like that he seems to ignore the needs of his girls with emotional and fatherly support. Emily Cullitone does a nice joy of developing her characters, forming a story and taking the reader into the thoughts of what becomes an extremely disfunctional family, Despite that I didn't enjoy the story as much as I thought I should. I give this book 3 stars.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm was an interesting, if slow moving book. I was particularly interested in learning why and how Marion Palm embezzled from her daughter's school. It was a little disappointing to see that her sole reason was because she felt like she was owed that money. It felt a little lackluster and selfish of a reason. I was bored during all of Nathan's chapters. He felt like a whiny brat throughout and it was satisfying to read the chapter about the lawyer telling the family about what happened with their family fortune. The girls stories were interesting, if a bit weird. Ginny's story felt the most real, since it was about a teenage girl acting out as her family fell apart. Jane was definitely an odd girl, so her adventure felt expected as well. I was definitely surprised by what happened to Marion in the end. In a way, it felt like this story could continue. Although I'm not sure if I'm interested in continuing to read about the Palm family.

I tend to like books of this ilk, and there have been several of late, but I didn't find a special hook in this one. Marion by herself isn't enough. The plot is just barely intriguing. I did finish in order to see how the author chose to wrap things up. Overall, not a book I would recommend.

I enjoyed this book. The main character, Marion, is basically just a jerk. She doesn't care about anyone but herself. This may be the only story I have read that has so many characters that are unlikeable. It definitely makes for an interesting dynamic. Marion leaves her kids and husband, but I have no compassion for him. The kids really are destroyed by their parents, who are both selfish jerks. This was definitely an intriguing book to read.

A book about privileged individuals having rich people problems. I felt that this one is aiming to be along the lines of Where art though, Bernadette, which I liked. But this one didn't grip me at all. I could not finish this one in time which surprisingly doesn't bother me at all.

I liked the story just fine. It was told wonderfully but, I couldn't help but wonder if everything that happened to them was karma. Marion and her husband seems like they would have been better off divorcing and not putting their kids through so much drama. Her co-workers are insanely daft or lazy because she was doing the most and none of them realized even after the audit. Her daughters are going through the most and at an age where they are having preteen and teenage problems. Good grief her youngest is a perpetual child stuck in a tot stage. It's just messed up all around. I don't know if I would recommend this though it's nice and well written just not the type of books I usually go for. I thought it would be a bit different from the discription but it was off by a mile.

Although I enjoyed the twists and turns of this book and the nicely imagined vignettes of the different characters, I was expecting a lighter, more humorous take after reading the synopsis. The book is well written, however it's filled with characters that were hard to warm up to. I would recommend this book with reservations. If you're looking for a beach read or, as others have noted, a story similar to one by Maria Semple, this may not be your book. If you're looking for something darker and more challenging, then I believe you will enjoy this read.

Emily Culliton's The Misfortune of Marion Palm was an enjoyable read for me. Well written with a good balance of plot and character development. I found it quite funny in many places as well as insightful into the human condition and what would lead someone like Marion into the embezzlement schemes that she got herself into. One place I saw it compared to a darker version of Where Did you Go Bernadette? It did not quite live up to this billing for me. It started to go dark and I developed a sense of dread and foreboding as I read, which I believe was the author's intent. However, it kind of fizzled out at the end into kind of ambiguous futures for the characters and the dark foreboding was never realized or rewarded for the reader. Overall a good read, amusing and insightful, that I would recommend to most readers.

This book is a mixed bag. The first half was very slow moving and none of the characters were likeable. Over time, however, the book improved significantly. The adult characters remain fairly one-dimensional, but the overall story and writing quality become more interesting over time, particularly when the author tells the story from the perspective of Jane and Ginny, Marion's daughters. Marion herself, however, forever remains a mystery.

The cover and the opening lines made me think I was settling in for a light summer read. Instead, this book is a much darker story about a woman who has little remorse and a marriage in which the partners fail to communicate. The search for the missing boy added more tension to the narrative and the nameless detective and his cat added to the theme of loneliness. There is some comedic relief in the sections about the board meetings at the school. Although this book was darker than I expected, I enjoyed it and am still thinking about whether or not I liked the way it ended.

Marion Palm is not your typical housewife. She's got the husband, she's got the two kids, and she's also got a bag full of cash she's embezzled from the school her kids go to, her husband's family were philanthropists to, and where she worked. At the beginning of the novel, Marion has taken her two daughters to lunch instead of school to say goodbye and ends up abandoning them there-without even paying the check. Going home to their father, he's convinced this time that Marion has probably just left him. A fledgling writer, her husband Nathan Palm has a habit of ignoring what's in front of him and having affairs. As Marion Palm runs off, she doesn't go far at first; instead she ends up working as a cleaning lady for some shady characters while everyone looks for her, some with a score to settle for the money she's taken. As we move along in the story, flashbacks for each character show how almost none of them deserve our sympathy except for Marion's younger daughter whose abandonment by her mother has serious repercussions. The oldest daughter rebels, Nathan Palm becomes a blogger and continues his affairs, and a detective with a sick cat seems to be the only one determined to find out what happened to Marion. Culliton does a superb job of writing a story that makes you interested in what's going to happen while making sure you sympathize with no one. I can see why Entertainment Weekly called it one of the 20 books to read for summer this year. It is a book, however, that might not be for everyone. As literature, I would say it's almost daring. The sentences are sparse, almost reporting-like, and it's jarring how matter-of-fact Marion's uncaring can be, but Culliton found a style that helps you be a part of the story even more that way. By finding out the truths about Marion, we're not told how to feel, we just do. That's good writing and makes for good literature. It really does ask the question, what is Marion's misfortune? Missing her family? Stealing? Not having a heart? And even then, would Marion realize that this is her misfortune?

I'd classify this as a fun beach read. If you liked "Where'd You Go Bernadette" than this will likely be a fun, amusing jaunt with dark humor and quirky characters. The characters don't have a huge amount of depth, but the book is fast paced and easily finished. I'd rate it 2.5 out of 5.

The book was a little slow but I did enjoy the clever and somewhat dark humor.

Marion Palm has embezzled $180,000 over the years from her daughter's private school that she works at. Before an audit begins she find that it is time to go on the run in hopes of not being caught and put in jail. Marion leaves her family, a husband and two daughters behind who have no idea that she stole this money. This book shows how a father who wasn't involved in every day necessities of life, learns how to become his daughters provider while Marion is on the run. This book was an easy read and I liked how the author kept the chapters short. Thank you First to Read for giving me the opportunity to read The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton. I really enjoyed this book.

I enjoyed the dark humor of this book. The daughters were more interesting in how they coped with their mother on the lam than either the mother or the father. Emily Culliton seemed to know the right time to throw in a little humor with the incredibly naive Board of Trustees. An accounting intern could have saved the clueless school. When I read I want to like some character but there is no one to like in this book; which makes it even better. A good summer read or one to set aside for cool fall evening.

I do like my humor dark, and this book delivers. Quirky characters who are dodgy yet sympathetic tend to be more interesting, at least in fiction (I doubt I'd want to know any of these people in real life). I found the short chapters ideal for reading during the daily commute, so this felt like a quick read.

Despite having the word misfortune in the title I found a certain jauntiness to this book, it is almost a parody of family strife. While Marion is not your typical heroine...or anti-heroine, I found myself rooting for her. Her husband is a real character and her girls have their own quirks which make the story compelling. The supporting cast are interesting and diverse, The story is fresh, original and unpredictable. The setting of Brooklyn rather than Manhattan confirms the borough's burgeoning cachet. While the themes explored in this book can be a bummer they are dealt with in a tongue in cheek manner, An altogether great vacation read. I was given this book in Penguin's First to Read program.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, though in truth it didn't hold my attention as much as I'd hoped. (I started it and got though 75% in one sitting, but then forgot about it until nearly a month later.) Despite this, it was an enjoyable read with characters I loved to hate. (This is a compliment to the story in general and the talents of its writer.)

I enjoyed this book. I appreciated Marion's hidden strength that was not obvious physically. I cheered for her to get away with her crime especially because no one thought she could/would do it. It was fun learning about her past and getting to know her that way. The part about the missing boy bothered me. I wish it had gone differently, but a thoroughly enjoyable book.

I found it to be a slow read to start off but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. It's a great book and I loved every minute I read it.

3 stars The writing style is amazing though the plot and story itself are confusing and all over the place.

I thought the cover of this book indicated a lighter sort of adventure...? And I guess that's how it plays out, but it isn't a 'funny'/light 'lighter', I mean an 'easier' to read. It's pretty simply done... with short, labeled chapters...making it a fast read. There was a bit of a twist, that didn't turn out to twist like I thought it might....but that's probably good! It was an interesting read, a new storyline for me, so that was good. I think this debut bodes well for this author! I think the simple 'construction' of the book combined with the serious nature of the story....might capture a lot of readers. I received this e-ARC from a Penguin First-To-Read giveaway program, simply in exchange for my own honest review.

I really enjoyed this book and am honestly surprised that other reviewers struggled to finish it. This book was in the vein of Where'd You Go Bernadette, although I'll admit it wasn't as good. This was a quirky book about a woman who embezzled thousands of dollars from her kids' expensive private school. Now that the school is about to get audited, she runs away and leaves her family. The set up of this book was great, even if it didn't pay off in the end. The ending seemed abrupt and almost too convenient. That being said, it was a unique story with unique characters. It has it's flaws, but I still enjoyed this book, more so than the other books I've gotten from First to Read.

This was an interesting read, in the sense that I couldn't decide if I was enjoying it or not. I found the adult characters to be pretty shallow and not relatable. I didn't like any of them, which made feel less interested in their story. I could identify somewhat with both of the Palm children, though, on a certain level. The short chapters and the shifts in the narrative kept the feeling that the plot was moving along. There were some interesting twists & plot developments that surprised me, and ultimately that is what kept me reading til the end.

Loved it! Reminded me of Where'd You Go Bernadette which I loved as well.

With a great opening line, "Marion Palm is on the lam," this book starts out hot and keeps going. Every possible cliché of Brooklyn trust fund life is lampooned when this curated existence requires secret maintenance by embezzlement. Of course the embezzlement happens at the wife's part-time job at their children's expensive private school. Where they receive reduced tuition and she works in the development department. The slings and arrows just keep accruing; an apt description for our protagonist with a special affinity for numbers. The book is fast, witty and compelling as it moves forward with a plot that keeps readers wondering how it all resolves. Rather well, by the way, the ending is of a piece with the book; it surprises and pleases. I received my copy from Penguin's First to Read Program and feel lucky to have done so.

I did not enjoy reading this book. The writing was dry and bland, the characters unlikable. Even the children I only felt pity for. The subplot with the missing boy seemed, while heartbreaking, completely irrelevant to the rest of the story. It felt like it was only included to give a quirk to the youngest daughter. The conclusion was unsatisfying. I don't know who decided this is a "wildly entertaining" book, but I definitely did not find it so.

This was a very difficult book for me too finish. Honestly I found it uninteresting and I just couldn't connect to the characters or the story. I got through it but it took me longer than utt should have.

I expected this book to be action-packed, thoughtful, funny, anything really than what it was. It was just plain boring and unimaginative.  I pretty much hated all the characters and the story unfortunately, didn't go anywhere.

To tell the truth this book was hard to continue I couldn't relate to the characters, I definitely would say not my favorite I mean I had to take so many breaks because I lost interest.

Not sure exactly what to think about this one. The writing was very interesting. I didn't connect with or like any of the characters though. The story line was also interesting but didn't move me in any meaningful way. I don't know. I liked it but I didn't. I'm definitely on the fence about it.

Marion Palm and her husband are both rather despicable, for very different reasons, and they are further surrounded by pretty despicable adults. In this web of distasteful people, even the couple's children are portrayed as innocents, perhaps, but with deeply rooted issues that will make them, it is hinted, rather distasteful adults in turn. In the entire book, there was only one character that was relateable, a nameless detective who took up maybe 15 pages or so of the entire novel. So then the question becomes: is this a great enough book to survive the unpleasantness of its characters? To make you root for the criminals? It's clear that other readers have decided yes, but I felt the answer was no. And that's the difference between my rating and theirs, I suppose. I just didn't enjoy any of my time with the characters, and there was no overarching message, no great themes, no poetic arc that would make the book otherwise worthwhile. The writing style is jerky and jumps from one point of view to another. Whether or not a reader enjoys the book probably has a lot to do with how much they agree with the author's assertion, made early in the book and then over and over again (as if repetition would make it true), that women who embezzle are doing it to fight injustice. Marion Palm feels slighted by the world, so she embezzles, and that is her fight against great wrongs. I just don't buy it. Which leaves Marion as simply a pathetic figure with clepto-like tendencies. Eh. I'll pass. I got a free copy to review from First to Read.

This book was difficult to get through yet I wasn't able to not finish it. Marion Palm is a woman I could never identify with. She is a thief and abandons her family. Unimaginable in my mind. The story is kind of choppy. Not a writing style I've ever read before.

I enjoyed the author's writing style. It was full of quick wit and some humour. Marion is a criminal and her misdeeds lead her into some rather interesting situations. How she works her way throught it is an entertaining story.

The plot of this story sounds good, embezzle money then leave the family behind. However, I could not stay with this book.

For someone that is passionate about quirkiness, this was a dream read. Marion has compulsions to embezzle and lets this compulsion to lead her away from her home, husband, and children. She has a lot of inconsistencies about her character that set her apart. Nathan tries to keep the pieces together while enjoying his affairs. The Palm daughters are each taken on their own adventures and occupations. Even the handling of the embezzlement by the school is quirky! I had so many good chuckles out of this book and will be watching this author for years to come.


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