In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden.
When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise’s unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she’s ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends—until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.
The Paper Wasp is a thrilling, unexpected journey into the psyche and imagination of a woman determined to fulfill her destiny from one of our most unique and incisive writers.
Advance Praise for The Paper Wasp
“It seems at first a novel of friendship between women—a rich vein for any writer—but in The Paper Wasp, Lauren Acampora upends convention, creating an unsettling (and impossible to put down) story about art and ambition, fame and power. A beautiful and surprising book.”—Rumaan Alam, author of That Kind of Mother
Praise for The Wonder Garden
“Like Wharton, Acampora seems to understand fiction as a kind of elegant design. As characters reappear in one story after another, Acampora reveals herself as a careful architect… accomplishes great depth of characterization, in no small part because Acampora doesn’t shy from the unpalatable… There is a barbed honesty to the stories that brushes up against Acampora’s lovely prose to interesting effect. Often a single sentence twists sinuously, charged with positive and negative electricity.”— New York Times Book Review
“Acampora is a brilliant anthropologist of the suburbs … [The Wonder Garden] is reminiscent of John Cheever in its anatomizing of suburban ennui and of Ann Beattie in its bemused dissection of a colorful cast of eccentrics. But Acampora’s is entirely her own book … Acampora’s ability to lay bare the heartaches of complex individuals within an utterly unique imaginative world is worthy of high praise.”—Boston Globe
“In 13 sharply drawn linked stories, Acampora reveals the complexities beneath the polish and privilege of a prosperous Connecticut town.”—People
“Acampora’s stories show that an Anna Karenina principle still applies: … Add well-drawn characters, interesting plots, cultural zingers and dead-on critiques of consumerism and Acampora delivers a page-turner.”—Dallas Morning News
“A smashing debut, with range, subtlety and bite. Reading Acampora, we’re in Cheever country, with hints of Flannery O’Connor.”—BBC.com
“Well-plotted, incisive and beautifully written fiction.”—Bookreporter.com
“Acampora’s debut creates a portrait of a fictional upscale New York suburb, Old Cranbury, through a series of linked stories that are intelligent, unnerving, and very often strange… as irresistible as it is disturbing.”—Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)
“So vivid, tightly plotted, and expertly woven that they make you look forward to reading more by this accomplished author.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Spooky and fabulous… A cleareyed lens into the strange, human wants of upper-class suburbia.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“Acampora wields prose with the precision of a scalpel, insightfully dissecting people’s desperate emotions and most cherished hopes… Acampora brilliantly captures the heartaches and delusions of American suburbanites.”—Booklist (starred review)