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Palm Beach is the most recent novel by Mary Adkins, and I have eagerly read her other two, When You Read This and Privilege. Each has memorable, distinctive characters, a grounding in today's headlines, and a strong sense of place, whether it's an elite university or a wealthy winter retreat. What humor there is, is subtle, and what romance occurs is not paramount over an interesting narrative. In Palm Beach, a financially struggling young couple accepts an offer to work for an uber wealthy one (their mansion has swimming pools on each side to align with the sun's position). The young husband becomes the house manager and his wife agrees to co-write the other wife's autobiography. They will all have to reconcile with what happens when good people do a bad thing, and bad people do a good one.
“Becomes increasingly difficult to put down. . . . The novel is itself like a sandy beach, equal parts beautiful and uncomfortable. . . . Lines blur and expectations aren’t met, keeping readers on their toes. . . . makes for a surprisingly fast-paced Palm Beach.” —Associated Press
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?
Mary Adkins is the author of When You Read This, Privilege, and Palm Beach. A native of the American South and a graduate of Duke University and Yale Law School, her writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Atlantic. She also teaches storytelling for The Moth. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.