Review: Page-turning exploration of wealth in ‘Palm Beach’

“Palm Beach,” by Mary Adkins (HarperCollins)

“Palm Beach” becomes increasingly difficult to put down as the life of heroine Rebecca turns down a twisty path that challenges her rigid morals and forces her to reconsider her priorities. Perhaps, she discovers, money can buy happiness.

As in her previous two novels, Mary Adkins writes a strong female lead. Rebecca is a new mom and her husband, Mickey, is newly employed. When their small family moves to Palm Beach to follow the most secure income they’ve ever had, Rebecca finds herself immersed in the world of Florida’s wealthy elite — a dream come true for a reporter whose beat is income inequality and who has long been fascinated by the exorbitantly rich.

Soon after moving, everyday struggles like child care and health insurance begin to drive a wedge between Rebecca and her husband as they come to rely on the affluent Stones family for more than just Mickey’s paycheck. But as Rebecca gets a taste of Mr. and Mrs. Stone’s wealth, she has to reckon with the ever-thinning line that divides her righteous self from their lavish lives.

“Palm Beach” invites you to cringe both at and with Rebecca. Adkins occasionally steps back from Rebecca’s point of view and into the world of Mickey, who dreams of returning to Broadway but is stuck working as the Stones’ butler to support his family. Rebecca’s judgmental nature gets tiresome, so these detours into Mickey’s mind are well-timed respites.

The novel is itself like a sandy beach, equal parts beautiful and uncomfortable. It is saturated with in-between-ness, calling into question what defines “us” and “them.” Lines blur and expectations aren’t met, keeping readers on their toes. Adkins’ blunt, heavy-handed style makes for a surprisingly fast-paced “Palm Beach.”

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