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Children of Paradiseby Fred D'aguiar
Synopses & Reviews
Based on the terrible truths of Jonestown, Jim Jones's utopian commune in Guyana, Children of Paradise is a beautifully imagined novel that interweaves history and fiction to portray a mother and daughter's escape from the rule of a religious madman.
Joyce and her young daughter, Trina, have followed a charismatic preacher from California to the wilds of Guyana, where a thousand congregants have cleared a swath of dense jungle and built a utopian society based on a rigid order guarded over by armed men and teenage "prefects." Each day ends with sermons that demonstrate the preacher's capricious violence and his utmost hostility toward even a whisper of skepticism. But try as the preacher may to block out the world, the commune's seclusion is being breached, first by tribal elders complaining of polluted river water downstream, then by an invisible presence that has helped a young boy to disappear, and finally with rumors of the imminent arrival of a congressional delegation on a fact-finding mission.
As the camp begins rehearsing an endgame of mass suicide, Joyce and Trina attempt a daring escape, aided by a local boat captain and the most unlikely of prisoners—the extraordinary Adam, the commune's caged gorilla.
Told with a sweeping perspective in lush prose, shimmering with magic, and devastating in its clarity, Children of Paradise is a brilliant and evocative exploration of the liberating power of storytelling.
"D'Aguiar's (Bethany Bettany) fifth novel launches us into the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide and cult leader Jim Jones's twisted version of paradise: an isolated place where the inhabitants are starving and punished for the smallest infraction, where a community's adults allows live tarantulas and scorpions to crawl over small children as a test of their faith, where the spiritual leader is viewed as half-deity, half-rockstar by all who live there. Although readers learn little about the main characters, we do find out that the college-educated Joyce and her spirited daughter Trina are two of the commune's most respected members. Yet even they begin to have doubts after witnessing the preacher's deception and lies. Still, the most magical part of this story isn't Joyce or even Trina, but Adam, the enormous caged gorilla, whom the preacher uses to scare and control the members of the community. Adam is the book's heart and provides almost all the poignancy and dark humor. While D'Aguiar can describe starvation with prose so evocative it makes a person hunger for a piece of bread, he focuses little on the characters themselves — and the kind evil charisma that led to the suicides of 918 people. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Acclaimed novelist, playwright, and poet Fred DAguiar has been short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize in poetry for Bill of Rights, his narrative poem about the Jonestown massacre, and won the Whitbread First Novel Award for The Longest Memory. In this beautifully imagined work of literary fiction, he returns to the territory of Jim Joness utopian commune, interweaving magical realism and shocking history into a resonant story of love, faith, oppression, and sacrifice in which a mother and daughter attempt to break free with the help of an extraordinary gorilla.
Joyce and her young daughter, Trina, are members of a utopian community ruled by a magnetic preacher. When Trina, plays too near to the cage holding the communes gorilla, Adam, the ape attacks and kills the child. Or so everyone believes. That night, the preacher dramatically “revives” her—an act that transforms Trina into a symbol of its charismatic leaders God-like power. Desperate to save her daughter from the preachers control, the outspoken Joyce attempts a daring escape, a run for freedom aided by another prisoner—the remarkable Adam.
Told with a sweeping perspective in lush prose, shimmering with magic, and devastating in its clarity, Children of Paradise is a brilliant and evocative exploration of oppression—of both mind and body—and of the liberating power of storytelling.
About the Author
Fred D'Aguiar, born in London and raised in Guyana, is an associate professor of English at the University of Miami. He is the author of The Longest Memory, which won the Witbread First Novel Award, the David Highman Prize, and the Guyana Fiction Award. Feeding the Ghosts was short-listed for the James Tait Prize, Scotland's oldest literary award.
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