Whether you spent months searching for the perfect finishing powder and whisper-pink blush to mimic the delicate beauty of a Jane Austen heroine, or your first blood-red lipstick purchase was influenced by Snow White herself, if you’re anything like us, your beauty icons were the ladies of literature. Welcome to Beauty and the Book, the marriage of our two obsessions, where each time we showcase a new, amazing book and show you how to get the leading look.
This time we’re looking northwest, to a quiet immigrant neighborhood in (literally) blazing Los Angeles, where 25-year-old Polish girl Anya, underemployed and underjoyed, just wants to figure out one thing: How to look Russian enough to get into the Twin Palms.
How To Get Into The Twin Palms, Karolina Waclawiak’s razor-sharp debut novel, is not your typical L.A. story, or immigrant story. Rooftop coke binges and the tragicomic hollowness of the crazy/beautiful are replaced by the scent of simmering onions and discount store cleaner, retiree bingo, and corner-store carrot cake, dustings of ash on motel pool water. And unlike the archetypal immigrant protagonist, Anya wants the opposite of passing for American. She wants to be Russian, “Soviet-built and dooming,” to shed her ill-formed identity and project a new, powerful one she never got the chance to develop—and hopefully, do it well enough to be granted access to the exclusive nightclub.
But getting into the Twin Palms is not so easy. No one gets in unless they’re in already. Night after night, she studies the women going in and out in their furs and stilettos. She takes up smoking, buys some push-up bras, and dyes her blonde hair dark in an attempt to emulate their specific brand of gritty elegance. Eventually, she attracts the attention of Lev, an already-married Russian gangster who represents neither a future she craves, a past she misses, nor a present that can sustain her—a bad idea all in all, but a ticket to the Twin Palms, nonetheless.
Visceral and strong in its simplicity, How To Get Into The Twin Palms is a book that is not so much read as it is felt, and nothing is felt in quite the same way as the presence of the women Anya studies for inspiration. Ferocious in their glamour and built for winter (fur coats in California, anyone?), the ladies of the Twin Palms are no strangers to excess. Below are seven products to help you get Russian-ready, so all you need is a vodka shot and a designer bag to carry them all in.