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Birds of Paradiseby Diana Abu-Jaber
Readers of her first four books already know Diana Abu-Jaber is a delightful, engaging storyteller. But with her new novel about a teenage runaway and the family she leaves behind, Abu-Jaber has truly come into her own. It's not a criticism to say that Birds of Paradise has more depth than her earlier work. Her characters are no more realized, the language no more lyrical, but the complexity of the emotional maze through which she sets her dogged cast of misfits and the subtlety of insight with which she illuminates their stories are truly breathtaking.
"When you're familiar with someone's work, it can be difficult to separate it from what has come before, to let it stand — or stumble — on its own merit. But this challenge, in the end, is what makes Birds of Paradise so remarkable. Because while Portland writer Diana Abu-Jaber has always impressed us with her pointed humor and cultural insights, her new novel is just that: entirely new. With Birds of Paradise, Abu-Jaber has made an amazing, gigantic leap into rare air, that hazy stratosphere we jokingly call The Big Time. Her novel is that worthy, and that beautiful." Christine Selk, The Oregonian (Read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
In the tropical paradise that is Miami, Avis and Brian Muir are still haunted by the disappearance of their ineffably beautiful daughter, Felice, who ran away when she was thirteen. Now, after five years of modeling tattoos, skateboarding, clubbing, and sleeping in a squat house or on the beach, Felice is about to turn eighteen. Her family — Avis, an exquisitely talented pastry chef; Brian, a corporate real estate attorney; and her brother, Stanley, the proprietor of Freshly Grown, a trendy food market — will each be forced to confront their anguish, loss, and sense of betrayal. Meanwhile, Felice must reckon with the guilty secret that drove her away, and must face her fear of losing her family and her sense of self forever.
This multilayered novel about a family that comes apart at the seams — and finds its way together again — is totally involving and deeply satisfying, a glorious feast of a book.
"Abu-Jaber's fourth novel (after Origin) is a stunning portrayal of a damaged family. Five years before, at 13, beautiful Felice Muir ran away from home and her mother, Avis, father, Brian, and older brother, Stanley, to live on the streets of Miami. Avis relies on sporadic meetings with her daughter although Felice often neglects to appear. When Brian thinks of Felice, he focuses on the past: 'In that warm salty night, he felt as if the texture of time itself were thickening, settling over them, as if they would be held together in the froth of air, its silky threads attaching and keeping them safe, everlasting family.' Work keeps all of them absorbed: Avis is an expert pastry chef, Brian a real estate lawyer haunted by Miami's gentrification, Stanley the owner of a popular organic food shop, and even Felice has occasional modeling gigs that bring in small influxes of cash. Felice has left them, but her parents and brother are also alienated from one other as they mark the passage of time and reflect on Felice's upcoming 18th birthday. Abu-Jaber's effortless prose, fully fleshed characters, and a setting that reflects the adversity in her protagonists' lives come together in a satisfying and timely story. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A multilayered, beautifully textured novel about family and self, self-indulgence and generosity, against the vivid backdrop of contemporary Miami.
About the Author
Diana Abu-Jaber is the author of Crescent, Arabian Jazz, and The Language of Baklava. She divides her time between Portland, Oregon, and Miami, Florida.
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