The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora
ebook, 302 pages
Expected publication: June 11th 2019 by Grove Atlantic-Grove Press
About the Book:
In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden. When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise's unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she's ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise's world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends--until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.
This story is told from the singular point of view, of our main character, Abby. Taken at face value, it is a lovely and heartbreaking reflection on childhood friendship, and on how living life changes everything. Readers who look for no more than that will be carried along by the unfolding of the story, which moves forward though events that are unforeseen and yet emotionally inevitable.
The book is wholly satisfying on that level. But for those who want more, it also has themes that are completely contemporary. Lauren Acampora's prose is a wonder. The book takes risks and pulls them off.
Is it literary fiction? Mainstream? One of those "Women's novels?" I don't know and don't much care, I just know I really liked it. Those who are looking for chick lit are likely to to find themselves with more than they expected. The novel doesn't tell you how to feel about the characters and their actions, because they are real characters, and, like real people, some of the things they think, do, say and the way the author presents it, can make us feel unsure and uncomfortable. Getting more than you expected is one of fiction's enjoyments. This novel delivers it.
Thank you NetGalley, Grove Atlantic-Grove Press and Lauren Acampora for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an impartial review; all opinions are my own.
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