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The Mineral Palace

3.18  ·  Rating Details ·  345 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
The Mineral Palace explores the healing and destructive powers of love, family and motherhood, while telling the Depression-era story of Bena Jonssen, wife of a philandering physician and mother of a seven week-old son, who moves with her family from St. Paul, Minnesota, to the dusty, railroad town of Pueblo, Colorado. Bena takes a job as the society reporter for the Puebl ...more
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published August 28th 2000 by Putnam Adult
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Apr 19, 2009 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Joyce Carol Oats fans
I just don't know what to make of Heidi Julavits! Where does she come up with this stuff?

A beautifully dark novel, set in the 1930s Depression Era, in a small Colorado town. Meticulous writing, intriguing setting, multi-dimensional characters. Julavits is especially good at crafting complicated relationships between characters. You know, the sort of relationships where most things go unspoken (intentionally). Think Revolutionary Road set amid dust storms and prostitution rings.

Some of the plots
This novel was a very spontaneous purchase I made after reading the summary. Unfortunately, it did not work out quite well for me, as I couldn't take to the main character of the story, which mostly left me unaffected.
The only parts where I could sympathize where the motherly moments where Bena tended to her little son and later found out about his tragic disease. Otherwise, it turned out to be a case of "let's get over with it", which was not entirely unpleasant, but not very entertaining eithe
Wow, that took a turn. Solid historical novel with some opaque characterization... and then everything went downhill real fast.
M. Sarki
Nov 29, 2016 M. Sarki rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned

…The truth was that she’s come to see her husband’s infidelities as a relief. She and Ted had created a comfortable life inside of which they could hide from themselves and each other. The distance he maintained from her in order to protect his philandering meant that she could rightly be unknowable to him, and he to her.

A novel, disappointing in its unriveting action, provides at times a concept worth considering. But why Julavits persisted in having this
Lisa Sophocleous
Feb 26, 2017 Lisa Sophocleous rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a depressing, captivating couldn't put down read. By the time I was finished I felt utterly depressed and melancholic. Was that the authors intention? I have to say she did manage then to impart the utter hopelessness felt by many during the depression. An ending I wasn't expecting. Well written but left me a bit empty, maybe it was the authors intention!
Aug 18, 2015 Kara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set against the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, Heidi Julavits’s debut novel The Mineral Palace is as heavy and despondent as the story’s backdrop. While the novel may not be a light summer pick-me-up, there is much to appreciate in Julavits’s well-crafted narrative and fine writing. Her prose is as polished as her pedigree indicates: an MFA from Columbia and an acknowledgments page crowded with shout-outs to literary heavyweights like Maureen Howard and Dave Eggers. Her protagonist is a reporte ...more
Dani Peloquin
Aug 22, 2011 Dani Peloquin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to believe that The Mineral Palace is the first book that Heidi Julavits has ever written. Though the reviews on are not that favorable (but who reads that nonsense anyway!), I found the book to be everything that I look for in a novel.

The story is set in Colorado in the 1930s during the dust bowl. I was a bit hestiant to read this novel at first because I tend to shy away from novels set during the Depression, but I am so glad that I took a chance on this. Though the dust
Richard Good
Nov 01, 2011 Richard Good rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was mentioned in Donald Maass' "The Fire in Fiction", a book on writing fiction, and it was used to illustrate techniques in his chapter on "Transforming Low-Tension Traps", such as using weather as a story opener. I picked up this novel as part of a project I have started, using the examples in Donald Maass' book as a reading list. In fact, at a BookBuyers store in Monterey, I found "The Mineral Palace" on a shelf with Heidi Julavits' subsequent novels, "The Uses of Enchantment" and " ...more
Rori Rischak
Jan 20, 2011 Rori Rischak rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prettiest-covers
Julavits is certainly an unusual author. She's not the best at making believable, relatable characters, and she doesn't quite succeed in pulling the reader in to the story -- usually you feel more like a disjointed spectator.

However, she does a fabulous job of playing these little mind games with you that make you question your own reality, question people's motives, and ultimately makes the book almost an interactive experience to the text because your interpretation of events affects the story
Meghan Wyrd
Jul 20, 2015 Meghan Wyrd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It's fitting that this book opens up in Middle-of-Nowhere, Iowa, because the scenery there is about as captivating as the story. (No offense to any Iowans, I don't doubt that you're fine people. But let's be honest, most of your state looks insanely boring.)

There are some raw emotional moments, though they are tragically few. I did like Bena's neurotic nature and her superstitious obsession with numbers, because I'm kind of similar in that regard. The dialogue from some of the SECONDARY characte
Apr 12, 2012 Tessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I've come to expect from Heidi Julavits' books, The Mineral Palace was lush and poetic and full of little events that appeared to be unrelated when, in fact, they were all critical features of a mystery that wasn't fully unveiled until the very end. In fact most of this book read like a series of short stories about the protagonist, a new mother displaced from her home when her Midwestern doctor husband is forced to take a job in far-off Pueblo, Colorado.
Understanding that Julavits draws fro
Feb 28, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bena is the female representative of settling for less and wanting so much more than a women of that time (perhaps, any time period) can have. She is plagued with boredom, isolation, temptation, and stereotypes that mean to keep her in her place and to prevent her from mixing with people that society deems beneath her. And so, like the moth to a flame, she is drawn to what is forbidden and dangerous. It is Bena's internal questions and external behaviors that fascinated me and has kept her in my ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Kris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a weird reading experience for me. I was engaged with it throughout, I guess because it was pretty well written and I was curious about what would happen to the characters. But I didn't find any part of it compelling. The stories of the characters are pretty dramatic, and yet the book as a whole kind of comes across as dry and hard as its setting (a dessicated Colorado mining town in the Depression.) I just didn't care about the characters despite their pitiable states - they weren ...more
Dec 27, 2009 Taylor rated it it was amazing
I read this book when it first came out and didn't remember much about it other than that I liked it. After reading Julavits's other two, I decided to re-read this one, and basically all I have to say about it is that it is, in fact, very good, and it also reads like a first novel--that is, there are a couple of moments that, having read this author at her absolute best, are a little less assured than her later work. None of those moments make the novel any less riveting, though. Like her other ...more
Jan 22, 2009 Iris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting story. 1930's Pueblo was an ominous backdrop. I could identify with many of the characters, and they felt very real to me. Bena was a strange character, but I very much related to the feelings she had throughout the book about her son. While this ended on a very sad note, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and couldn't put it down! I'll look forward to reading more of this author's work in the future.
Interesting story...somewhat dark but a good read set in Depression-era Pueblo, CO. I'm not sure what the point was of having Bonnie Parker enter the story for a very brief moment, but I liked the figurative language and setting, as well as the twists in the story that all made more sense at the end. I figured about a third of the way through that there was something seriously wrong with the baby, which made the ending a bit sadder.
Oct 16, 2015 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I limped across the finish line of this well-written, but unrelentingly bleak novel. The book is filled with people who seem to exist mainly to cause each other pain. The author fills her writing with evocative metaphors and similes, primarily to describe scenes of grief, violence, and despair. I loved The Vanishers, her 2012 novel, but was disappointed with this book's arc.
Aug 06, 2007 Bryce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with a high pain-tolerence
An interesting, well-written book that is also so depressing you want to die.

During The Depression, a woman travels to a dust bowl town to begin a new life with her family. She's plagued by an unexplainably lethargic baby, a drunkard husband, and a constant feeling of alienation from her neighbors. It only gets worse from there...
Nov 03, 2012 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I picked it up not knowing what to expect, didn't read the dust jacket and just jumped into it. After getting into it a little bit, I did read the dust jacket and learned that it was the authors first book. Wow! What an amazing talent. I was mesmerized by the story. I will be looking for more books by this author.
A.D. Morel
First off, you want to be in the mood for a dark read, and once you've got yourself in that frame of mind you will be at one with this novel. I liked the setting, and Julavits' turn of a phrase made this an exploration of a stark landscape. The feeling continues long after the book has been put away.
Feb 28, 2014 Craig rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I very much like Julavits, who has ideas for days. This first novel illustrates this in spades, but it also illustrates the problems of her earliest novels: too many ideas competing for too little space. She has since learned how to manage this, and so I'd recommend her later novels over this one. But as an inkling of what's to come, this one is successful.
Mar 04, 2012 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this a long time ago. I picked it up because it was about Pueblo, a city I adore, and I thought I would get some background on the theater that is built in the park by I-25. I think the park is called Mineral Park and the theater is called Mineral Palace. More later.
I got about half way through this, then put it down in favor of a book that I was asked to review. I find myself avoiding picking it back up because of the sadness of the story. Call me a wimp, but I need cheerfulness or hopefulness right now. Perhaps I'll explore this again some day.
Meg - A Bookish Affair
May 04, 2008 Meg - A Bookish Affair rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2009
I could not get into this book at all. The writing is stilted and the characters are fairly unlikeable and not in a good way. Bena moves with her cheating husband from Minnesota to Pueblo, Colorado during the Great Depression.
...porque está bien escrita y la historia no es mala; aunque para mí le van mejor 2 1/2, porque es una de esas historias con tendencia al costumbrismo y a la introspección que, en última instancia y para determinado tipo de lectores impacientes, parece que no va realmente a ninguna parte.
Feb 09, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Pretty disturbing, so it isn't for everyone. Especially Maude... woah. I wish there had been a little more done with Bena's OCD; I like to think about how it could have been manifested and acknowledged within the time frame of the Depression.

I wants me a cowboy.
Jan 17, 2011 Valentina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is beautifully written, although it could have been even better with some tighter editing (some parts I felt were not necessary to the plot line). Quite depressing, so only tackle it if you are firmly planted on the line of mental stability.
I generally adore what Julavits does with character and structure, but the dark and painful nature of this book make it hard for me to finish. And when I did, I felt a little raw, like I'd just lost a scab. The writing itself, the craft, of course, was lovely.
Apr 05, 2012 Savirra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I should agree that for me, this is a fierce novel. I've been far from reading lately, and choosing this book for a somewhat starter of my old habit was a good decision. This book has a crazy control over my heartbeat, that's indeed what I'm looking for!
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Heidi Suzanne Julavits is an American author and co-editor of The Believer magazine. She has been published in The Best Creative Nonfiction Vol. 2, Esquire, Story, Zoetrope All-Story, and McSweeney's Quarterly. Her novels include The Mineral Palace (2000), The Effect of Living Backwards (2003) and The Uses of Enchantment (2006) and The Vanishers (2012).

She was born and grew up in Portland, Maine,
More about Heidi Julavits...

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“Life, my dear, is not about romance. The sooner you learn that, the less of a disappointment yours will prove to be.” 1 likes
“It was new there even if it was nowhere.” 0 likes
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