In this book by Sallie Day, The Palace of Strange Girls is a variety freak show where
"adults only" can see such sights as the amazing tiger woman and the ape woman. This show
is also an exact opposite to the family who are the heart and soul of this wonderfully
different book, itself called The Palace of Strange Girls.
On the outside, the Singleton family is very normal. The dad, Jack, has a good job
and the mother, Ruth, is an excellent housewife and mother. The girls, Helen and Elizabeth,
are beautiful and obedient. Yet, in the heart of each is the chaos and pain that is the
central theme of the story.
It is actually Ruth’s pain that reaches out and affects each of her family members.
She lived her early life poor and she so desperately wants everything perfect. She wants
Jack to continue to advance in his job so they all can have the wonderful life she believes
money can afford. To her, happiness is a large house and the appearance of luxury.
Happiness is also well behaved children and she is needlessly strict with her daughters.
What she doesn’t realize is, she is hurting her family with her needs. Each of them suffers
from their own heartache and readers catch up with this potential powder keg as they go to
spend a holiday week at the sea.
It is here that various other characters invade their tightly controlled life and things
began to spin into madness. Several of the characters take turns telling the story, so
readers not only get to hear first hand the emotional opinions of Ruth and the conflicted
thoughts of Jack, we hear from other family members and minor characters as well. Together
the narratives work to reveal various bits and pieces of the Singleton family and to explain
why they have arrived at the sea ready for a family revolution.