Book: How To Get Into the Twin Palms
Author: Karolina Waclawiak
Published: August 14, 2012 by Two Dollar Radio
First Lines: “It was a strange choice to decide to pass as a Russian. But it was a question of proximity and level of allure.”
Amy’s rating: 4.5/5 girls defiantly dyeing their hair with box colors not found in nature
Susie’s rating: 4.5/5 nights sleeping on bare mattresses because you both can and can’t stand the thought of his sweat touching you
It’s been a minute since we did a discussion post, but when I flipped over the last page of How To Get Into the Twin Palms, I immediately knew that this book would be the next one. I needed to read this book with my comrade-in-blogging Amy, even though it meant that I had to say goodbye to my lovely, deckle-edge copy (that I of all people wanted to hang onto a physical copy is telling–the printer does gorgeous work) so I could put it in the mail to New York. Womp womp.
Twin Palms follows a young woman who calls herself Anya. The book takes place during a time in her life that she might look back on in ten years and call a “transitional period.” Anya has lost her job, and, in that hazy twilight of being not-quite-employed, decides to reinvent herself with one goal in mind: to become Russian, rather than Polish, so she can go into the swanky Russian club across the street. When she makes Lev’s acquaintance, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she can gain entry. Twin Palms has resonance, humor laid over a pulsing knot of emotion, and a clear, clean voice that you’ll want to read more of in the future.
Susie: So, I’m glad you didn’t end up like, hating the book, since I basically strong-armed you into reading it.
Susie: I had all of the excitement for it.
Amy: No, it was good. Very good. I don’t think I’d 5-star it – probably 4.5 – but very very good. (And I don’t know why it’s not a 5. It’s missing…something. But I don’t know what.)
Susie: Yeah. I tend to be stingy on the five-stars anyway. Very few books are that perfect.
Amy: I think it maybe left too many loose ends for me? But then I thought, eh, life’s full of loose ends, not everything ties up neatly. So it was probably on purpose.
Susie: I didn’t get the sense of unresolved plot point rage, so I’d guess it was intentional. I liked it, actually–I would often rather a book leave some things to mystery than try to tie everything up neatly.
Amy: Yes. There’s definitely a fine line between everything being TOO neat – which I hate, that’s not realistic – and then leaving way too many danglies so the reader’s like…um…what about…and what about…WHAT HAPPENED?
Susie: I really identified with the protagonist in this book. She reminded me a little bit of Della from Zazen.. not that they are the same, but almost sisters in a way.
Amy: I like a protagonist who’s a little bit lost and a little bit searching, because that’s me, and that’ll always be me. I find that easy to relate to. And yes, I agree – this book had a Zazen-esque feel too it. Similar protagonists – both young women that didn’t quite fit in, that were doing their best. I liked them both a lot, felt for them both a lot.
Susie: And both part of very distinct subcultures. The divide between the Polish and Russian cultures in LA interested me, because as Americans, we can tend to gloss “Eastern European” into one big lump at times.
Amy: I found that interesting, too. I loved the food and the culture. And the language! I’m such a language whore. I was repeating the words in what I’m SURE was mangled pronunciation and grinning to myself.
Amy: The sensory input in the novel was fantastic. She really excelled there. You smelled things, you felt things, you saw things.
Susie: It took me back to when I lived in Anaheim. We lived there during the time that Irvine was on fire.
Amy: I’ve never lived anywhere where there was a fire, and she really brought me there. I was impressed. Loved Anya in the pool covered in ash.
Susie: It was like that, just like she described. The air was heavy and smoky.. we were a little far away to get the ash, I think. I remember we went out to get doughnuts one night–I have no idea why, since everything was on freaking fire–and we couldn’t drive with the windows down. The doughnut shop was deserted, just us and the guy behind the counter, watching the fires on the news in silence. The city was silent, for being as populated as it was. Twin Palms put me there again, fully.
Amy: I’m a firebug. I understood her need to be closer to it, her obsession with it, and her…um…I don’t want to spoiler. Fire’s cleansing. And a good way to put a period at the end of a sentence.
Susie: I thought it was a great way to set the mood for that time in Anya’s life. It feels different, when you’re near fires like that–everything feels different, like an emergency. You’re taken out of your normal life. It fit well with her circumstances.
Amy: I also loved her constant need for change. Her hair color. Me in college. Didn’t have the same hair color three months running for probably ten years.
Susie: I connected with her conflicting feelings about Lev. How she wanted to roll around in his smell one minute, and how it disgusted her the next minute. I’ve been down that road a few more times that I’d care to publicly confess (catches herself before posting a broad estimate).
Amy: Lev! I liked him, but he was also a dog. I guess he was just used to getting what he wanted from women. I loved how once she got into the Twin Palms it wasn’t what she’d been dreaming. How many times has that happened in my life? ALL.
Susie: I KNOW. And her experiences inside the club–it’s jarring when you’re involved with something that’s all-consuming and you realize there’s a completely other point of view to your actions, one that might not be so . . . pleasant.
Amy: YES. When you finally see the other point of view, you can open up enough to see it? It changes you a little. It remakes who you are, what you’ve been doing all that time.
Susie: Do you think she’ll ever run across the fireman again?
Amy: I think he represented a cleaner, better life. The American dream, I guess. And I don’t know if she’s there yet, or if she ever will be. Or if she ever even really WANTS to be!
Susie: So, two thumbs up to Twin Palms.
Amy: I do highly recommend it. I also love The Believer, and the author edits for them (it’s a publication of McSweeneys!).
Susie: She’s also on Twitter @BelieveKarolina (cos, I stalked her a little after I finished–in a non-creepy way).
Amy: Oh, will have to find her! I’ll want to know when her next book comes out. She’s one to keep an eye on, if her first book was this good.
Susie: I KNOW. I devoured it. I needed to read something that good.
I read Twin Palms weeks ago, but the story still haunts me. If I had to suggest one book from 2012 (so far) to read, it would be a very close race between this book and Dora: A headcase. What about you guys? Have you read Twin Palms yet? Do you think you’re going to read it? You know where the comments go.
(Related: a review of Twin Palms from TNBBC, for those who like more traditional reviews.)