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The Misfortune of Marion Palm

3.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,708 ratings  ·  468 reviews
A wildly entertaining debut about a Brooklyn Heights wife and mother who has embezzled a small fortune from her children's private school and makes a run for it, leaving behind her trust fund poet husband, his maybe-secret lover, her two daughters, and a school board who will do anything to find her.

Marion Palm prefers not to think of herself as a thief but rather "a woma
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Robert Because the other characters (and the author?) didn't care about Nathan. That wouldn't be consistent with sociopathic personalities.
Connie Sorry I spent it. Not funny and not hilarious as billed, unless readers like laughing AT people.

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3.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,708 ratings  ·  468 reviews

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Angie Reisetter
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Marion Palm and her husband are both rather despicable, for very different reasons, and they are further surrounded by pretty despicable adults. In this web of distasteful people, even the couple's children are portrayed as innocents, perhaps, but with deeply rooted issues that will make them, it is hinted, rather distasteful adults in turn. In the entire book, there was only one character that was relateable, a nameless detective who took up maybe 15 pages or so of the entire novel.

So then the
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
The last book I read, The Rumor, a publisher tells a novelist with a wayward wife, "For once let the heroine be happy, not good."

This advice was followed by Culliton. It's a strong story with equally strong characters, but not necessarily a nice story with nice characters. There's meat on the bones here. The women (young and old) meet life older sister tells the younger sister, "Kick all the boys you want." Certainly not the makings of nice girls!

I could have used another 50 pages
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thank you Penguin Random House for the ARC.

Marion Palm is a criminal. She embezzles money. But how she does it and what happens turns into a very entertaining story.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Another story about terrible people, with a protagonist whom we're supposed to cheer on (I think?) just because they surrender to their worst impulses and don't love anything or anyone. This is a mediocre book about owning and celebrating the worst parts of yourself. Short but exhausting.
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, 2017, may
Marion Palm has been embezzling money from her daughters' school, and, one day, picks up and leaves her family. Day by day, we follow her husband, Nathan, her children, Ginny and Jane, Marion's colleagues and the administrators at the school, the detective on the case, and others in a wonderful and motley crew of characters as they struggle to figure out what happened to Marion. Virtually no one in this novel is particularly likable, and that is absolutely part of the charm.

Readers may feel com
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: available
2-3*s I was hoping for Kathy Bates in her Towanda The Avenger incarnation, and that may be partially responsible for my total disenjoyment ( surprised to find that's actually a word). IMO, almost all of the characters, with the possible exception of Marion, were just a set of behaviors rather than people.
Kasa Cotugno
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, loc-usa-nyc
Marion Palm is on the lam. That's the first line. But how she came to embezzle $180,000 from her daughters' school coffers while working in their development office comes out in this witty, episodic novel which is told in explosive little bursts. At times she's front and center, at times, her increasingly feral daughters and trust fund husband who finds a new identity in the form of a blogger. Why Marion did what she did, how this affects her family -- it all comes together sort of like a Chuck ...more
Campbell Andrews
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
The most controlled prose I've read in a while. Trouble is, it's airtight- there's almost no breathing room.

This is a Coen Bros. take on Maria Semple, but Ms. Culliton seems to mistake objectivity for verisimilitude, and/or maturity— it would have been better as a first-person, more skewed narrative. The writer's approach strips the story of most of its inherent humor.

(And the chapters! Good Lord, not every 2 pages needs a thundering title. Is this a novel, or a series of short stories?)

I find t
Apr 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I am a bit conflicted about this book. I didn't feel any affinity with any of the characters, despite the Brooklyn neighborhoods as the setting. Marion is not a sympathetic character, leaving her family after embezzling funds. The family is so dysfunctional that it's like a train wreck you can't turn away from, with a unique style of writing by the author. I like quirky, but not quite as depressing as the Palms.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A dark comedy that in it's outlook and gimlet look at class distinctions reminds me of Beryl Bainbridge's The Bottle-Factory Outing, with millennial Brooklyn standing in for early 70s London. Stylistically Emily Culliton's voice -- distant, observant, yet somehow still warm -- evoked Elizabeth Crane. There were times I felt like the book was too sad to keep on reading, yet I kept coming back to it and loved the ambiguity of the ending. Not a book for everyone, but one that slightly more adventur ...more
Suanne Laqueur
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it
So many review blurbs on the back cover call this book “funny.” I didn’t think it was funny at all. It was bleak and depressing. Well-written and a good story, but not what I’d call funny.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
It's not funny.

I was promised a comedic read, and I was expecting something like Forrest Gump, or the 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared. Tragic characters, in tragic circumstances, with honest adventures, and feel good moments.

Instead I got a woman abandoning her children, a husband with 2 mistresses, children suffering breakdowns to the point where a 13 year-old decides to start drinking. There is nothing funny here. There isn't any wit or lessons learned.

It becomes a
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
This may not have been for me.
Cindy Roesel
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn't quite know what to expect when I picked up author, Emily Culliton's, debut novel, THE MISFORTUNE of MARION PALM (Knopf). All I knew is that it was heralded one of those must-reads at BookExpo and it's been written up in just about every magazine as a must, must be read!
Marion Palm steals money - from people and institutions, doesn't matter. But she doesn't like to think of herself as thief, but rather "a woman who embezzles." Over the years she's managed to steal $180,000 from her daug
Jaclyn Day
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a bizarre book. It doesn't have enough forward direction or fully-fleshed characterization on paper, but yet I kept reading, and I did think, "Okay, well, there was something here," but I've yet to quite decipher what that something was. Marion is a troubled, strange, but standoffish sort of character to follow, and I can see glimmers of a fascinating look at what happens when a mother decides she needs to change her life and change it big, going from small subversions to One Big One. I ...more
Scottsdale Public Library
This compelling novel tells the story of a mother who, upon embezzling from her children’s school, which she also works at, goes on the run to avoid being caught. This entails leaving behind her husband and two daughters. Throughout the book you see, from multiple perspectives not only how her actions and the fallout from them impact her, her family and their community, but also what led to her embezzlement in the first place. It is fascinating to see the fallout and how everyone deals with it i ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a story about a completely dysfunctional family. It held my interest because of the craziness.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: arc-reviews, dnf
****I received a copy of this ARC as part of Penguin's FirstToRead Program!****

*I DNF'd this book on page 78.*

Unfortunately, this book did not end up being what I thought it was going to be. I was interested in Big Little Lies sorta vibe from the synopsis, but ended up getting more Gone Girl-esque flashbacks. Let me start off by saying I Hated Gone Girl, yes hate with a capital H and DNF'd it about halfway through. The reason for both of these falling short for me is simple: I don't give a shit
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
The Palm family is not nice. A trust fund baby, Nathan Palm is only interested in satisfying his own needs. His wife, Marion, steals money from a Brooklyn private school to finance her departure from her family and any motherly responsibilities. Marion abandoned, their daughters, Ginny and Jane, at a restaurant, when she ran out on them and the check. No wondered they are self-absorbed and acting out. Overall, the characters are superficial with few if any redeeming qualities. Misfortune is usua ...more
Jennifer Ciotta
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was a strange read for me. First off, it took me a LONG time to read, weeks... however, something kept pulling me in. The tension line of Marion and her misdeeds proved subtly riveting, yet the book lacked something overall. I believe, from an editorial standpoint, it had to do with the overuse of the verb "to be" and these non-descriptive verbs slowed the book down. Culliton is a talented writer, and she apparently has or is working toward a PhD in fiction and it shows. For a first no ...more
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: r-pfr
The marketing for The Misfortune of Marion Palm promises wit and humor. Sadly, I find neither in the book. It is a sad snapshot of a family with unlikable characters who generate neither interest nor empathy. The marketing also promises an adventurous "bad girl" heroine. I am all for "bad girl" heroines to cheer for. However, I find myself not cheering for this one.

Read my complete review at

Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc, fiction, read2017
I did not particularly enjoy this quirky novel. The writing lacked description or depth, unfolding the story in a choppy, unimaginative manner.

Over the years, Marion Palm embezzled money from the private school her children attended and she worked for part-time. And then she left. A bizarre, poorly planned exit, leaving behind her family to become increasingly odd. Every character in the novel seemed to be mildly apathetic and unusual. The plot moved great distances in short, tight chapters.

amanda eve
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was more style over substance. The shifting perspectives and present tense are interesting choices, but the story itself fell flat. Marion only got interesting in the last 1/3 of the book; everyone else felt like cardboard cut-outs.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
For a book that I waited quite a while for through the holds at my library, this didn’t live up to the wait or hype. This debut novel is about Marion Palm who embezzles from her daughters’ school and then takes off. That’s about the sum of it. The story plot was bland and the characters were very one dimensional. The one thing I can say it was a quick read.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, book-club
The best thing I can say about the book: I just wanted to just lounge around eating popcorn and reading it for hours.

The harshest thing I can say about the book: It was a book making fun of entitled people in Brooklyn, written by...a person from Brooklyn.
Tina Panik
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'd love for Marion to team up with Martin from Matthew Dick's "Something's Missing," as the two would make a great klepto all-star team! This is a quirky, entertaining read.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
all the characters were awful and faced no consequences which made me feel like the book didn't have any point. this isn't a problem in and of itself but it is a problem when its also no fun.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
The description on the jacket as funny and "wildly entertaining" were certainly misleading to someone who hoped for a caper novel a la Donald Westlake. Marion is so very unlikable, and the daughters and husband she left behind pretty mixed up even before she left. He is an adulterer and one of the children likes to kick and punch other kids. With the exception of one teacher, who turns out spineless in the end, the administrators at the school Marion robs are pretty creepy.

I am fine with multipl
Oct 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult, abandoned
I must be losing me sense of humor because I didn't find this amusing one bit. On the contrary, I was annoyed with Marion and her dynamics to buy a ticket in order to escape. Why would you have to pull out $500 dollars to pay for a $20+ ticket?

And, you are embezzling money but don't have a plan for when you are found out? And when you do run away you do so leaving your 8 year old daughter behind? Why? You never loved the child?

I thought the book was self published but no, it is not; which makes
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the overall writing style and tone of this book so much. It made me chuckle. (I kind of adored Daniel.) It is very well-written, with fully drawn characters. It’s just that most of the characters are so deeply, deeply unlikeable. I wanted to punch all the self-absorbed adults in the face, and the kids broke my heart. Maybe that’s how I was supposed to feel, but it ended up alienating me as a reader. So I guess this one just wasn’t for me. But I’m still glad I read it, and I look forwar ...more
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