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Strange Piece of Paradise


Strange Piece of Paradise Cover




Strange Piece of Paradise

Part One
It has sometimes taken me ten years to understand even a little of some important event that happened to me. Oh, I could have given a perfectly factual account of what happened but I didn't know what it meant until I knew the consequences.
A Dangerous Summer's Night
Poised on that twilight edge between life and death, I felt intimately the part of me that was flesh, and I knew also that I was something more.
I came to that insight early on. I was scarcely twenty.

IT WAS 1977, a drought year in the American West, the driest year in recorded history, although history in those parts went back only a hundred years.
Back then, all of America was in a drought. The fever dream of the sixties had simmered down and the country had lost its way. The national mood was dispirited, in recovery from shocks and traumas, pinched by stagnation and inflation. Fatalism shadowed sunny American optimism.
Gas prices had never been higher. But I didn't care. I was riding a bike.
America was hardly past its two hundredth birthday as I was nearing my twentieth. Its bicentennial year called for celebrations to restore a sense of the nation's magic and promise. Out of that came a bicycle trail, the BikeCentennial, forged from coast to coast through America's most spectacular countryside. My college roommate and I were riding the trail on our summer vacation. Encouraged by the 1970s culture to strive for self-discovery, we were hoping that the song of the open road would enlarge life's meaning.
In the Cascades of the Northwest, drought conditions were melting the glaciers left from the last ice age. The mountain passes cleared unusually early in the summer of '77 and allowed us to scale the highest pass. On the seventh day of our journey, we rode up through green rain forest. At the summit, a field of lava, night-black, surrounded us from every direction, as if a devastating fire had burned through only yesterday. Breathing in the air of the heights, we headed down. Trees abruptly appeared again. Only now they were reddish desert trees.
We set up our tent along a river in a small park in a desert of juniper and sage,and bedded down for the night. It was Wednesday, June 22, the summer solstice. As the earth slowly turned in the dark, Americans in one time zone after the next settled in front of their TVs, safe in their living rooms. They watched the CBS Wednesday-night movie, the world television premiere of a dark and unsettling Western, one of those edgy films made in the seventies that reflected the mood of national cynicism. It was a film complete with psychopaths and moral degeneracy, a new American mythology that turned the romantic version of the Old West on its head.
The sound of screeching tires woke me. It was near midnight, and we had just gone to sleep. A stranger deliberately drove over our tent, then attacked us both with an axe. I saw his torso. He was a meticulous cowboy who looked like he had stepped off a movie set.
My great voyage across America ended abruptly there. And that was how I reached young adulthood, with a certain knowledge of life at its farthest edges.
Copyright © 2006 by Terri Jentz

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

Suze R, October 10, 2011 (view all comments by Suze R)
A woman and her friend were cycling the Bike Centennial in 1977,starting in Oregon.They only made it to Cline Falls State Park near Redmond.The book is about the brutal axe attack when they were camping there and the writer's journey 15 years later to heal through going back to the past.The crime had never been solved,but most people in the town thought they knew the person responsible.
This is not an easy book to read but well worth it.An amazing story.
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tamara_failor, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by tamara_failor)

Engaging is too mild; mind-blowing is more accurate. The perfect mix of interesting local history, murder-mystery intrigue and well-crafted memoir. A long tome that deserves every page.
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Catherine Williams, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Catherine Williams)
This true story reads like the very best of murder mysteries.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Jentz, Terri
Picador USA
Other Miscellaneous Crimes
Women's Studies
Criminal investigation
Violent crimes
Personal Memoirs
Women's Studies - General
Violent crimes -- Oregon.
Criminal investigation -- Oregon.
Crime - True Crime
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
Includes 17 bandw illustrations througho
8.25 x 5.50 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Crime » General
History and Social Science » Crime » True Crime

Strange Piece of Paradise Used Trade Paper
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$7.95 In Stock
Product details 752 pages Picador USA - English 9780312426699 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The author was a Yale student biking cross-country during the summer of 1977 when she and her roommate were attacked by an axe-wielding cowboy while camping in Oregon. Jentz escaped with a gashed arm, while her friend was nearly blinded from head injuries. Fifteen years later, in 1992, Jentz returns to the scene of the attack to repair the psychic wound and attempt to close the case. Dogged in her pursuit of the truth (though largely abandoning the subtitle's promise of introspection), Jentz interviews the witnesses who saw her stumble out of Cline Falls State Park that June night; she scrutinizes police files and discovers the halfhearted investigation of suspects, learning about several horrific killings that took place in Oregon then. Jentz even befriends the former girlfriends of one suspect who becomes frighteningly plausible as the culprit. She finally tracks down the local cowboy known for carving his initials into his axe handle; though he can no longer be prosecuted for the attack, the satisfaction of seeing him convicted for another offense is a bittersweet vindication. While a thorough, forthright detective, screenwriter Jentz tends to meander and includes unnecessary detail. Still, her story is chilling and will enthrall true crime readers." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "In this memoir Terri Jentz grapples with the deep subconscious of America, as well as its flesh and blood. Her writing has the weirdness and gravitas and beauty of life."
"Review" by , "Part true crime, part memoir, part a profile of a stone-cold psychopath and part an exploration of violence and its effect on people and communities, Jentz's book is tough to read — and even tougher to put down."
"Review" by , "As if to perform reconstructive surgery on her psyche...Jentz returns to the scene of the crime to conduct an epic investigation as shadowed in grief and as stricken by violence as Truman Capote's Kansas in In Cold Blood."
"Review" by , "The strongest parts of Jentz's story...are the connections she forged with her newfound allies — women who were beaten and abused...police officers who lived in the community and dealt with violence daily, and who genuinely wanted to bring closure to an old case."
"Review" by , "Strange Piece of Paradise is a haunting, lyrical journey through one woman's nightmare. Terri Jentz's debut is harrowing, gripping and poignant. The impact lingers long after the final page is turned."
"Review" by , "An extraordinary story about the scars of the spirit and how they heal, Jentz's epic American journey is both heart-rending and heartening, devastating and redemptive."
"Synopsis" by ,
In the summer of 1977, Terri Jentz and her Yale roommate took a cross-country bike trip. As they lay sleeping in the central Oregon desert, a man in a pickup truck deliberately ran over their tent and proceeded to attack them with an axe. The horrific crime was reported in newspapers across the country, but no one was ever arrested. Fifteen years later, Jentz returns to the small town where she was nearly murdered and makes an extraordinary discovery: the violence of that night is as present for the community as it is for her. Shockingly, many say they know who did it, and he is living freely in their midst.


Powerful, eloquent, and paced like the most riveting of thrillers, Strange Piece of Paradise is a startling profile of a psychopath, a sweeping reflection on violence and the myth of American individualism, and a moving record of Jentz's brave inner journey from violence to hope.

"Synopsis" by , Powerful and fast paced, this is the electrifying account of Jentz's investigation into the mystery of her near murder. A startling profile of a psychopath, and a moving record of a brave inner journey, this unforgettable work is certain to be one of the most talked about books of the year.
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