You can hook me into reading anything by comparing it to Mexican Gothic. And then you tell me it’s also sapphic? Then I’m sold. I was so intrigued by Tripping Arcadia and then I read more about botany and I was smitten. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Med school dropout Lena is desperate for a job, any job, to help her parents, who are approaching bankruptcy after her father was injured and laid off nearly simultaneously. So when she is offered a position, against all odds, working for one of Boston’s most elite families, the illustrious and secretive Verdeaus, she knows she must accept it—no matter how bizarre the interview or how vague the job description.
By day, she is assistant to the family doctor and his charge, Jonathan, the sickly, poetic, drunken heir to the family empire, who is as difficult as his illness is mysterious. By night, Lena discovers the more sinister side of the family, as she works overtime at their lavish parties, helping to hide their self-destructive tendencies . . . and trying not to fall for Jonathan’s alluring sister, Audrey. But when she stumbles upon the knowledge that the Verdeau patriarch is the one responsible for the ruin of her own family, Lena vows to get revenge—a poison-filled quest that leads her further into this hedonistic world than she ever bargained for, forcing her to decide how much—and who—she’s willing to sacrifice for payback.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
So while this was compared to Mexican Gothic, I feel like while this has vibes of secrecy, family secrets, and suspense, there are still a few key differences. That being said, I think Tripping Arcadia in its own way is a fabulous sapphic mystery/thriller. It’s a book that is founded on the wealth inequity. On the fact that Lena is running out of options and so she must take this job to help her family. That throughout this mystery of elite parties, glittering vials, and candy colored drug cocktails, to Lena the money is a lifeline. It’s a piece of power, of security, and becomes almost intoxicating.
The entirety of Tripping Arcadia has a reflective quality about it, like Lena is telling us the story afterwards. Not only did the first chapter entrance me with luscious writing that feels like silk on skin, top shelf liquor, and gold flakes, but also I was intrigued by this secret elite. To glimpsing this world of wealth, vastly different priorities, and money which slides against palms. I quickly became caught up in the mystery and world of Tripping Arcadia. Because I 100% supported Lena and my fascination with her character only grew.
That being said, a key definition of Tripping Arcadia is that Mayquist delves into the side characters of Jonathon and Audrey. We are introduced to gilded cages. Of children who will never measure up to family legacies. Of individuals who just want to escape their glass houses. By the end, you’ll be unable to stop reading. While I think there were a few elements at the end that were hastily wrapped up, I enjoyed this book for its sheer ability to keep me reading. The sapphic element is fantastic and I enjoyed the mystery immensely.