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.
Named a Best Summer Read by the New York Times, O Magazine, Elle, Town & Country, Tatler, Thrillist, BBC.com, Literary Hub, and Publishers Weekly.
One of USA Today’s “5 books not to miss”
Advance Praise for The Paper Wasp
“Take The Talented Mr. Ripley, cross it with Suspiria, add a dash of La La Land and mix it all at midnight and this arty psychological stalker novel is what might result.”—New York Times Book Review
“A hypnotic tale of codependence that skewers our fascination with gossip and fame.”—O Magazine, “The Best Books by Women of Summer 2019”
“The Paper Wasp fixes its gaze on one magnetic and increasingly twisted friendship… hypnotic and sensual… Acampora’s prose has a seductive, pearlescent allure.”—TIME Magazine
“Acampora’s kaleidoscopic narrative shifts fluidly from Abby’s strange, shimmering images to Elise’s descent into tabloid erasure, artfully tracking the unexpected power shift between them.”—BBC.com
“Gripping… likely to buzz its way into many beach bags this summer.”—Irish Times
“A thrilling tale of a twisted friendship, obsession and ambition… an unsettling, compelling read.”—Tatler
“Landing somewhere in between Marisha Pessl’s Night Film and You by Caroline Kepnes, The Paper Wasp aims to disturb while it enraptures.”—Open Letters Review
“Readers will enjoy reading this story of dark friendship set against the ‘flash of Hollywood.’”—Boston.com
“This is the Los Angeles of weird cults and day-drunk stars, of struggling documentary filmmakers and mysterious but powerful directors… Utterly bizarre and completely bewitching, this twisted, delicious tale will grab you from the first page and hurl you over the edge.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Acampora’s linked short story collection, The Wonder Garden, electrified literary critics, and this deeply disturbing, wildly inventive, and completely unpredictable debut novel is sure to do the same. Abby and Elise will be haunting readers’ dreams long after the last page.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“An unsettling and surreal excavation of the boundless depths of the human psyche… Acampora’s writing is gorgeous and renders with precision and clarity the spiral of Abby’s increasingly disorienting world of obsession and hallucinatory imagery. The result is a piercing, disquieting novel.”—Publishers Weekly
“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
“Acampora is an exquisite stylist who misses no shade or psychological texture and who also plumbs depths of feeling in note-perfect prose that leaves one stunned at the artistry on display. The Paper Wasp is a powerful statement of aesthetic purpose, and an unalloyed triumph.”—Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves
“A lyrical, provocative, imaginative page turner that makes the world feel new again, The Paper Wasp is both a stunning portrait of a fixated woman and an addictive, modern commentary on an eternal theme of obsession. In her glittering, goosebump-inducing prose, Lauren Acampora gives us a soul trip/head trip/rarefied LA trip replete with surrealism and social commentary.”—Caroline Kepnes, author of You
“The Paper Wasp was a crazy joyride of a novel; a bold and joyous take on female friendship, outsider ambition and the secret powers of loners. It gives us a heroine who is selfish, weird, manipulative, and sometimes just plain nasty, and makes us root for her with all our selfish, weird, manipulative, and nasty hearts. I loved every second of it.”—Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens
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)