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Birds of Paradise: A Novel Hardcover – September 6, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393064611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393064612
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #861,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Abu-Jaber makes us wonder about more that what will happen to one girl with a guilty secret. What, after all, does it mean to be a family? Is love really 'exchangeable, malleable'? We can’t help turning pages full of stunning prose to find out.” (Sarah Nelson - O Magazine)

“Diana Abu-Jaber’s gorgeous novel explores the ways a modern family can break down and be reborn. She writes with a precise, almost poetic distillation of feeling, heightened in contrast to the ripe, exuberant landscape and the unsettled feelings of a family in limbo.” (Amy Driscoll - Miami Herald)

“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)

“The Muirs’ absorbing story builds to a thoroughly satisfying climax.” (Sue Corbett - People Magazine)

“This Jordanian American author writes about food so enticingly that her books should be published on sheets of phyllo dough. Birds of Paradise contains her most mouthwatering writing ever, but it’s no light after-dinner treat. This is a full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at her table.” (Ron Charles - The Washington Post)

“The novel itself swells with life and style, with the stark contrast of the delicacy of fancy pastries and the down and dirty life on the beach.” (Alan Cheuse, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. - NPR, All Things Considered)

About the Author

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of Origin, Crescent, Arabian Jazz, and The Language of Baklava. Her writing has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Ms., Salon, Vogue, Gourmet, the New York Times, The Nation, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. She divides her time between Coral Gables, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

More About the Author

Diana Abu-Jaber's latest novel, Birds of Paradise, won the National Arab American Book Award and was named a top book pick by the Washington Post, NPR, Chicago Tribune, and the Oregonian.

Her previous Origin, is a literary psychological thriller which has received starred reviews from both Publisher's Weekly and Booklist and won the Northwest Booksellers Award.

Her memoir-with-recipes, entitled The Language of Baklava, was a Border's Original Voices selection and was included in Best Food Writing 2005. It also won the 2006 Northwest Booksellers' Award.

Her novel, Crescent (W.W. Norton), won the PEN Center Award for Literary fiction and the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award. It was also named a Notable Book of the Year by the Christian Science Monitor. Her first novel, Arabian Jazz (W.W. Norton) won the Oregon Book award.

Abu-Jaber currently teaches at Portland State University and divides her time between Portland, Oregon and Miami, Florida.

Customer Reviews

I like books that make me think...and this one did.
L. Lafata
Diana Abu-Jaber is a lush, evocative novelist capturing subtle emotions and interplays amongst her characters.
Susan Tunis
I totally agree with some of the comments that were made, this is really annoying book.
Kate Runyan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Tolstoy said, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In Diana Abu-Jaber's fourth novel, the Muirs of Miami are a deeply unhappy family. The tale is set in the days leading up to daughter, Felice's, 18th birthday. Her mother, Avis, is a talented pastry chef, running a high-end bakery out of their home. Her father, Brian, is a successful real estate attorney. And at 23, her older brother, Stanley, is running a business he's passionate about. These are privileged people with every reason to be content, but when Felice was only 13 years old, she ran away from home. She didn't run far. She's still in Miami, a "beach kid," sleeping outdoors or squatting in houses. But there's been virtually no contact with her family since she left, and it's torn them apart.

This is not a story of abuse or addiction--although there is abuse and there are drugs in her story. No, Felice was a supremely lovely and loved child being raised by flawed, but essentially good, people. And part of the suspense of the novel is the motivation for Felice's actions. No one can understand why this young girl went off the rails. At one point her father asks himself:

"What. What should he and Avis have done? Put their girl's face on a milk carton?
Missing: Felice Muir, Age 13.
Kidnapped by herself.
Motivation: Unknown
What child does such a thing as that? Could she have been that unhappy?"

The story is told in chapters that alternate between Avis's, Brian's, and Felice's points of view, until Stanley has his say near the novel's end. Based on this overly simple summary, Birds of Paradise sounds like a Lifetime original movie. Nothing could be further from the truth!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Marvi on December 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There's not much backbone here on which this author can hang her lush prose and unusual imagery. Other readers have pointed out how hard it is to swallow many of the central and peripheral elements of this plot, but there's also a coldness--not only in Felice, but also in Stanley and Nieves--that's alienating. Even at the end, Felice leaves the reaching out entirely to her mother. It's hard to care about characters who demonstrate their capacity for caring only to a select few.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kate Runyan on September 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book as I loved Diana Abu-Jaber's first 3 books, but I didn't like Origin or Birds of Paradise. To me, this latest book seemed very flat with cardboard characters, and much of it wasn't believable.The more I got into the book the less I liked it, and it seemed very disjointed; including Felice's reasons for running away , her being able to survive for 5 years as a run-away but still be lovely and unharmed by the experience that seems totally nuts. In reality she probably would have been on hard drugs, eating from trash cans, and turning tricks none of which is really dealt it. it's very lyrical and poetic, but it's not realistic or believable, and ultimately it became very tedious and annoying. I totally agree with some of the comments that were made, this is really annoying book.
Crescent and Arabian Jazz were very good books, and I loved them, and I also loved Ms. Abu-Jaber's family memoir - The Language of Baklava. I wish she would get back to writing other books similar in style to her earlier books as they were far more interesting and more engaging than her later 2 books, and additionally the characters in the earlier books were much better portrayed.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gr8ful VINE VOICE on December 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My book club read Crescent by the same author a couple of years ago and we all gave it a thumbs up but Birds of Paradise was a disappointment. Four of us flat out did not like it and one thought it had more redeeming qualities than the rest of us.

We all thought that the author brought realistic heartbreaking accounts of how a tragedy can affect each family member. Most of the characters weren't overly likeable which didn't help matters and the book was just depressing, filled with loneliness, emptiness, and dragged on and on.

I think the author over-described things to the point of making the book tedious. I also had a tough time believing some of the things she describes which I'll list in the comments but won't put them in the review so it won't be a spoiler.

Can't say I'd recommend this one. If you haven't read Crescent by this author, give it a try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mel on May 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
My book club read the book and we loved it. Five librarians are hard to please, but this book did the job. We all loved the portrayal of these real and well developed characters. The descriptive language pulled me in so much that at one point I could have sworn that I could smell the cookies baking is the main character's kitchen. I would recommend this book to readers who typically don't read realistic fiction. I'm a mystery lover myself, but this story was an accessible and enjoyable read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By BemisReviewsBooks on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Felice is 13 years old when she runs away from home for good, her distraught parents handling her disappearance in their own dysfunctional ways. Her absence manages to break the heart of her older brother as well. The reader spends a lot of time wondering what could make this young girl from a good home do such a crazy thing, opting to live on the streets of Miami, putting herself in dangerous situations daily. The reason is due to a dark secret that Felice harbors alone and unknown by anyone else. While I was waiting to learn of this secret which is only minimally alluded to in the first half of the book, I grew to dislike Felice intensely. Perhaps this was the intention. The story did seem greatly flawed until the end where the dots were definitely connected. The family does indeed have issues, Felice's mother Avis, an accomplished pastry chef with a thriving home business cannot let go of the dream of her daughter following in her footsteps while simultaneously shunning the son who wanted to be just like her. Once Felice is gone, Avis still holds on to the dream while going through a silent breakdown of sorts. She is the only one in the family who continues to put herself on the line time and time again for Felice's safe return. We know that Avis is grappling with some major unresolved issues stemming from her relationship with her own mother. She clings to her daughter as if she is a lifeline. Part of her salvation comes in the form of an unlikely friendship with a mysterious woman named Solange who lives next door. Brian, a lawyer is reeling from the guilt of being gone far too long, working to support his family while giving in to his corporate colleagues, sharks intent on gentrifying large urban areas in the most shady of ways. Finally there is Stan, several years older than Felice.Read more ›
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