“This character Martha is so genuine. Every thought and every spoken word rings true.” —Shelley Ettinger, whose work has been published in Newtown Literary, Mississippi Review, Blithe House Quarterly, Lodestar Quarterly Snow Monkey and many other places.
“Love Palace made me realize that a good novel opens like life—with innumerable paths spread out before you….and the reader is eager to follow Martha’s.” —Rebecca Kavaler, award winning author of the Further Adventures of Brunhild, Tigers in the Wood, and Next of Kin.
The narrator of Meredith Sue Willis’s engaging new novel has just turned forty, quit her job, been jilted by her live-in boyfriend and suspended by her therapist for nonpayment. Martha plunges into a personal meltdown the way some people plunge into a bag of doughnuts. Against her better judgment, she takes a job at a settlement house known as “Love Palace” in a run-down community that is about to be razed for urban renewal.
There Martha discovers that she has a talent for managing the dysfunctional institution and its staff of young runaways. She is attracted by the charismatic reverend who oversees Love Palace as well as by Robby, one of the staff members, who is rich, handsome, recently released from a hospital after a suicide attempt, and intensely ambivalent about his sexuality.
Along with the Love Palace crew of runaways, derelicts, struggling blue collar workers, a former Black Panther, and many others, Martha has to deal with her ex-hillbilly mother, who favors shoulder pads and big hair; her sister the big-shot lawyer; and her dying Jewish grandmother.
At first Martha views Love Palace as a kind of theater arranged for her personal amusement, but she finds herself increasingly concerned about the people and the neighborhood. Then she discovers that someone is stealing money, and that there are perhaps other betrayals underway as well.
There is a wedding in the middle and a funeral at the end.