Like its subject, The Misfortune of Marion Palm‘s title has a special gift for misdirection: A small fortune has in fact gone missing, but Marion knows exactly where it is because she stole it—discreetly (and then not so much) siphoning off nearly $200,000 from her daughters’ progressive Brooklyn private school.
The antiheroine of Culliton’s drolly cynical debut isn’t in it for debt or glory; she takes because she can. Born on the wrong side of the borough, Marion finds herself an accidental member of the city’s self-regarding bourgeoisie via her husband, a philandering poet with a dwindling trust fund and a lax parenting style that borders on criminal neglect.
When the penny—or more accurately the audit—drops, she leaves her two young girls in his less-than-capable hands and goes on the lam, following her bliss while the family quietly falls apart. Like a more acid Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Misfortune gleefully torpedoes the saintly ideal of motherhood; the good ones may go to heaven, but the bad ones go everywhere. B+.
“Marion Palm is on the lam. A blue JanSport backpack filled with $40,000 rests between her ankles. She’s taking a train to a midwestern city. She said goodbye to her two daughters an hour ago and lied about where she was going. She did not say goodbye to her husband. He’ll need to figure this one out on his own.”