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.
“Fred DAguiars magnum opus. He takes a story we think we know, Jonestown, and transforms it into an even larger, yet more intimate tragedy. A book not to be missed.” Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light
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 is an acclaimed novelist, playwright, and poet. He has been short-listed for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for Bill of Rights, a narrative poem about the Jonestown massacre, and won the Whitbread First Novel Award for The Longest Memory. Born in London, he was raised in Guyana until the age of twelve, when he returned to the UK. He teaches at Virginia Tech and is an American citizen.