Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Paper Wasp

The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora
Grove/Atlantic: 6/11/19
eBook review copy; 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9780802129413

The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora is a highly recommended, dark, twisted tale of a friendship between two women.

Abby Graven is stuck at her parent's house in Michigan working as a cashier in a supermarket. She obsessively creates detailed drawings of visions from her dreams that are often premonitory, and she follows the films of director, Auguste Perren. She also obsessively follows the acting career of her former best friend, Elise Van Dijk. When Abby and Elise reconnect at their ten-year high school reunion, a drunken Elise gives Abby her private number. Later Abby shows up in Hollywood and calls Elise. This results in a renewal of their friendship as Elise confesses she has no real friends and she invites Abby to stay with her. Abby becomes a pillar of support, a confidante, and a personal assistant to Elise.

Abby watches as Elise drinks too much, dates an arrogant, narcissistic man, and doubts her abilities while resenting the other egotistical actresses around her, but she also claims to be an artist, which embitters Abby. This novel shows the weird, dark side of Los Angeles and Hollywood. It also brings Abby closer to her idle, Auguste Perren, and his Rhizome retreat/compound, which teaches actors to use their dreams. Elise attends as if it is nothing, but Abby has obsessed with being there for years and religiously follows and practices Perren's dream-imaging techniques. At the same time Abby is still having her dream/visions and drawing them.
As would be expected, this reconnection is not going to result in anything good. Told in the second person, this is a disquieting, twisted, ominous novel that is the story of an uneven friendship, obsessions, a confession of hidden secrets, and a dairy of stealthy plans. Even when you know it is going to take a foreboding turn, it still will hold your attention, and the turn it does take is simultaneously unexpected and obvious.
The writing is excellent, even while it is taking bizarre turns, and you will find yourself compulsively reading just one more chapter. The ending is frightening and ominous, but Abby can explain and justify every turn she takes, as if it were all predetermined - which it has been through her dream visions. If it sounds like this is a rather odd visionary tale, it is. It is akin to a diary written to your obsessions.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grove/Atlantic.

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