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The Mineral Palace

3.15 of 5 stars 3.15  ·  rating details  ·  299 ratings  ·  46 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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Jun 29, 2009 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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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
Rori Rischak
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
Richard Good
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
Dani Peloquin
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
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
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
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
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.
Serafina Sands
Compelling, in a kind of creepy way. A book about loss and denial.
Carol Brill
Got 50 pages in and just too dark and depressing for me right now.
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
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.
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.
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.
Aug 06, 2007 Bryce rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...
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.
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.
Jun 05, 2011 bookczuk marked it as put-aside-for-another-day  ·  review of another edition
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.
...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.
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 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.
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!
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 really did not enjoy this one. I think I read the first 50 pages and just could not continue - boring, the writing style was a bit difficult to follow, the use of heavy description just took away from getting to the point.
Meg - A Bookish Affair
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.
The story is grim, twisted and disturbingly sensual. Probably a two-star effort, but I gave it an extra credit star for it's ability to keep me reading. Not sure if that's a good thing or not!
ilana stern
i dont know... 1/2 way done and debating whether or not i should put it down. i like her. sorta. maybe i just like the way she looks, but not how she writes. to be honest...
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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...
The Vanishers The Folded Clock: A Diary The Uses of Enchantment The Effect of Living Backwards Read Hard: Five Years of Great Writing from the Believer

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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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