Published by Harper on August 3, 2021
Genres: Literary, Women's Fiction
Length: 9 hours 10 minutes
Narrator: Stacey Glemboski
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A thought-provoking page-turner from the author of When You Read This and Privilege that captures the painful divide between the haves and have-nots and the seductive lure of the American dream.
Living in a tiny Queens apartment, Rebecca and her husband Mickey typify struggling, 30-something New Yorkers—he’s an actor, and she’s a freelance journalist. But after the arrival of their baby son, the couple decides to pack up and head for sunny, comfortable Palm Beach, where Mickey’s been offered a sweet deal managing the household of a multimillionaire Democratic donor.
Once there, he quickly doubles his salary by going to work for a billionaire: venture capitalist Cecil Stone. Rebecca, a writer whose beat is economic inequality, is initially horrified: she pillories men like Stone, a ruthless businessman famous for crushing local newspapers. So no one is more surprised than her when she accepts a job working for Cecil’s wife as a ghostwriter, thinking of the excellent pay and the rare, inside look at this famous Forbes-list family. What she doesn’t expect is that she’ll grow close to the Stones, or become a regular at their high-powered dinners. And when a medical crisis hits, it’s the Stones who come to their rescue, using their power, influence, and wealth to avert catastrophe.
As she and Mickey are both pulled deeper into this topsy-turvy household, they become increasingly dependent on their problematic benefactors. Then when she discovers a shocking secret about the Stones, Rebecca will have to decide: how many compromises can one couple make?
Looking for a new book to read before the end of summer? This could be the book for you. I mentioned this book in my post Books I’m Burning to Read Summer 2021 and downloaded the audiobook on August 3, its release day. Unfortunately, I was hit with a wicked migraine the same day so had to delay my starting the book by two days. But if you know what it’s like Living with Migraines, then you might know that sound sensitivity is a thing, a serious thing. So I was in the dark most of the next two days following. I finally got a little break from my migraine and was able to binge listen to Palm Beach.
I will try to be as vague as possible about details that could be deemed spoilers so if you really want to know what happens, then read the book!
Mary Adkins weaves a tale about a couple who move from New York to Palm Beach, Florida with their new baby. Things are looking up for the couple. Or are they?
What can I say about Palm Beach?
First, I want to say that I listened to the audiobook and finished it in two days. it was impossible to put down after getting past the semi-infodump of a beginning other than the fact that I had things to do that I couldn’t do while listening to an audiobook. Once I passed that and Rebecca and Mickey found themselves in Florida, the story picked up with some fantastic pacing. The characters introduced from this point were interesting and The Stones were a believable wealthy couple based on my own experience with such. Mrs. Stone actually reminded me of someone I encountered often at a community outreach thrift store I worked at while in college. They were quirky and strange yet comical and somewhat typical
Another big point of the story besides not judging people for what they have. I couldn’t say that this was a book to garner sympathy for the haves versus the have-nots but not to show that they aren’t much different at the end of the day.
I felt like the ending was tied up a little too neatly for my taste but that is literally my preference and no reflection of the story or the writing. Life is messy and often has a messy ending so for it to be so idealistic was a little frustrating because it doesn’t truly reflect life most of the time but it’s possible, I suppose. The writing quality was great as I couldn’t stop listening and just resolved myself to finish it as quickly as possible. I haven’t finished a book this quickly since Dread Nation and Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland. The words just flowed and the direction was clear without feeling predictable. There are funny moments that can’t be overlooked either.
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I found the plot interesting, centering on the topic of income inequality, or the haves vs the have-nots, but I have to admit that I didn’t Love Mickey or Rebecca but not in a way the affects the story. They almost felt like they were written to not be completely likable but to be relatable. Whether that friend we look at sideways sometimes or the cousin we don’t truly understand. Also, their marriage was hard to resolve because they just didn’t seem compatible for most of the story. At times you could gleam why their relationship worked but not always. Sometimes it just didn’t make sense why they were even together but I know people have thought the same about me and my husband so we choose who we choose.
I hated how passive Mickey was. He was an actor through and through because it seemed like he was always playing a part in every scene he was in until he flipped his wig. Then he felt childish. It worked for the story, and yes this is just my opinion of a character. Both Rebecca and Mickey seemed to be idealists even if Mickey would disagree, he had ideas about how people should behave even if he was rarely bothered by the wealthy people he worked for, he had an idealized version of Rebecca in his mind based on her own idealized version of herself. When that image wavered, it was clear Mickey didn’t know how to respond to that. That is understandable and relatable. So in the end, I would likely never be friends with Rebecca and Mickey but they made good characters to tell this story through, even if Rebecca disappointed me more times than not. She learned who she truly was and what she was willing to do in a pinch. Mickey learned that, too. Rebecca was another beast altogether and I just don’t know how I feel about her but she told her story well.
This quote is the type of humor you can expect from Palm Beach. The characters are interesting and say interesting things. I found myself laughing out loud quite a few times and Rebecca, one of the main characters, to be very relatable as a new mother. I may not be a new mother but I am a mother of three and remember vividly those early days with my new babies. Rebecca’s curiosity about the wealthy is common for the unhealthy and gives great insight if you’ve also been curious about the lives of the wealthy.
The narrator was very good. I am particular about narrators. Stacey Glemboski delivered a fantastic performance and helped to make the book just sail along. I highly recommend the audiobook version because you know I love my audiobooks.
I listened to this on Audible so if you haven’t tried Audible yet, try it and get two free audiobooks – Audible
|Quality of Writing|
Q & A with Mary Adkins
I sent Mary 20 questions to answer and she was gracious enough to answer them with some fantastic insight, wisdom and, and the personality you can expect from Palm Beach. So here it is!
Q: What was the pivotal moment that convinced you that you were a writer or at least wanted to be?
A: Ms. Chancy, my 7th grade English teacher, told me I was a natural writer. I was so over the moon. I knew I loved it, but until that point, I had no idea that I was decent at it.
Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?
A: Stealing ideas from books I love.
Q: What do you love about being an author?
A: Playing God. Haha, no but really, I love the freedom to play around—with expression, with character traits, with interactions. It’s so much fun.
Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
A: Oh, interesting question—I’ve never been asked this before! I have two half-finished memoirs, and one finished but unpublished YA novel draft (a first draft).
Q: What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
A: The final product is always less than what it was in my head. This is very hard to accept, but I think maybe it will always be the case. Or, at least, I think maybe it’ll always be the case because I’m not someone who is willing to spend 20 years perfecting a draft. So it’s just something I’m going to have to live with.
Q: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
A: Find the voice you like to write in that people respond to—it may not be the way you think you should write.
Q: What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
A: For When You Read This, it was a plot point—someone facing her death. For Privilege, it was similar—someone with a sexual assault experience trying to find justice. For Palm Beach, it was a character—a woman struggling to live her principles when life throws a curveball.
Q: How many books have you written, and which is your favorite?
A: I’ve published three novels, and my latest, Palm Beach, is probably my favorite. Much of it is set in a billionaire’s household, and I loved writing those scenes.
Q: What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?
A: I’m reading The Other Black Girl right now and can’t put it down—I love how the author Zakiya Dalila Harris is satirical but still sincere enough that I care about the characters in a genuine way. It’s a hard balance to strike, I think. Before this, I read The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz and couldn’t put it down either. I’ve had good luck with books lately!
Q: What are a few common traps for aspiring writers?
A: Trying to edit the first draft while writing it. Trying to write something publishable as the first draft. Those are overlapping traps and both where many people get stuck, I think!
Q: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
A: Well, a cool thing about publishing your first book is that you get the option of selling your next book(s) on proposal, meaning you can get a contract before you write them. So that dramatically changed my process, because I had book deals for both my second and third books before I wrote them. Weirdly, that didn’t make them easier to write. If anything, I think it might have made it harder—instead of what if this never gets published? as the voice in my head, it was, what if, when this is published, it’s embarrassing?
Q: What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?
A: Mean reviews sting, for sure. I don’t even mind the critical ones that are thoughtful—I know that sounds eye-rolly, but it’s true! But mean ones make me so mad. I know I’m not supposed to read them, but I do anyway, because I’m not emotionally mature enough to walk away.
Q: How do you celebrate when you finish your book?
A: I always get a reward. For Palm Beach, I got a custom sweater with “Palm Beach” stitched on the front in the colors of the book cover.
Specific to Palm Beach
Q: What was your hardest scene to write?
A: There’s a scene where they get very bad news about their baby’s health. It was a doozie to write, particularly as a mom of a young child myself.
Q: What did you edit out of this book?”
A: A whole first half set in New York! I originally had written the entire story of the couple, Rebecca and Mickey, meeting and dating and getting married back in NYC before they move to Florida.
Q: What part of the book was the most fun to write?
A: The mega-rich people jokes were really fun to throw in.
Q: How much research did you need to do for your book?
A: A lot for this book! I wrote about worlds I don’t know—catering for the billionaire class, genetics, and financial crimes. I had to do a lot of research, mainly in the form of informational interviews with friends and friends of friends, to write confidently in these topic areas.
Q: What inspired Palm Beach?
A: My husband and our friends were actor-caterers in New York for many years. Hearing their stories was the original seedling of inspiration.
Q: If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?
A: Ha! Mrs. Stone—the billionaire whose memoir Rebecca is writing in the book. I sort of fell in love with her while writing.
Q: What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?
A: Originally the draft was largely from the perspective of Mickey (it was around 70% Mickey’s point of view and 30% Rebecca’s point of view). This balance reversed on revision after discussing whose story it was with my editor.
Q: How did you select the names of your characters?
A: Trial and error—I play around with names a lot in my drafts. Lots of Control-F to “replace all.”
Thank you, Mary, for that awesome Q&A!
Have you Read Palm Beach? Are you planning to? Let me know in the comments.