Contemporary, Family

The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

What attracted me to this novel was its unique idea: it’s rare to see a female embezzler, especially one who is a homemaker. I wanted to know how the author would go about telling this story, so here is my review:

Marion Palm prefers not to think of herself as a thief but rather “a woman who embezzles.” She has managed to embezzle $180,000 from her daughters’ private school, which she has used to pay for expensive vacations and renovations to her home. But when Marion discovers that the school is facing an audit, she pulls piles of cash from her basement hiding place and runs away, leaving her family to deal with the mess. As baffled detectives, and confused school board members start asking questions, Marion’s husband and children must navigate their new life without Marion.

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!

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