Synopses & Reviews
In the summer of 1977, Terri Jentz and her Yale roommate, Shayna Weiss, make a cross-country bike trip. They pitch a tent in the desert of central Oregon. As they are sleeping, a man in a pickup truck deliberately runs over the tent. He then attacks them with an ax. The horrific crime is reported in newspapers across the country. No one is ever arrested. Both women survive, but Shayna suffers from amnesia, while Terri is left alone with memories of the attack. Their friendship is shattered.
Fifteen years later, Terri returns to the small town where she was nearly murdered, on the first of many visits she will make "to solve the crime that would solve me." And she makes an extraordinary discovery: the violence of that night is as present for the community as it is for her. Slowly, her extensive interviews with the townspeople yield a terrifying revelation: many say they know who did it, and he is living freely in their midst. Terri then sets out to discover the truth about the crime and its aftermath, and to come to terms with the wounds that broke her life into a before and an after. Ultimately she finds herself face-to-face with the alleged axman.
Powerful, eloquent, and paced like the most riveting of thrillers, Strange Piece of Paradise is the electrifying account of Terri's investigation into the mystery of her near murder. A startling profile of a psychopath, a sweeping reflection on violence and the myth of American individualism, and a moving record of a brave inner journey from violence to hope, this searing, unforgettable work is certain to be one of the most talked about books of the year.
"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.)
"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." Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir
"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." USA Today
"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." Vanity Fair
"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." Los Angeles Times
"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." Harlan Coben, author of No Second Chance
"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." Melanie Thernstrom, author of Halfway Heaven
"Imagine that it had been Truman Capote himself who'd been savaged in Holcomb, Kansas, and that he had survived to describe his ordeal. That is the level of command and sinew at work in [Terri Jentz's] writing."--The New York Times Book Review
"Powerful . . . [Jentz] moves with great skill back and forth between the year of the attack and the years of her investigation."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Strange Piece of Paradise is a breathtaking memoir that deserves enshrinement on the essential books about the American West, worthy of a place beside Norman Mailer's classic account, The Executioner's Song."--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"[Jentz's] well-crafted story of trying to make sense of lunacy is unforgettable."--People
"Jentz excels in capturing the aftermath of the attack. . . . [She] is a savvy, big-hearted narrator who refuses to rush to judgment. . . . A singular, breathtaking document of devastation, survival, and hard-won hope."--Newsday
"In her spellbinding, heartbreaking tale of one random act of carnage, Jentz shows how evil sometimes doesn't have a face but leaves scars both physical and emotional."--USA Today
"This book, a haunting meditation on the attack and Jentz's hunt for her would-be murderer, is like nothing I have ever read. . . . [Strange Piece of Paradise] packs the power of a story that has simmered for twenty years. Jentz's intelligence and felicity with language amp up that power; her detective work delivers real thrills. . . . Gratifying."--The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
"The pacing and subject matter will keep readers mesmerized throughout. . . . An extraordinary story from a gifted writer."--Library Journal
"[Strange Piece of Paradise] will do more than just captivate us--it will also politicize us, change us, and move us to action."--Chicago Tribune
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.
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.
About the Author
Terri Jentz is a screenwriter and lives in Los Angeles. This is her first book.