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

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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

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)

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)

About the Author

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of four novels, including Crescent, and a previous memoir, The Language of Baklava. She and her family divide time between Miami, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393064611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393064612
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,152,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 1000 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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8 of 9 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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10 of 13 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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By AgnesMack on October 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Birds of Paradise had me hooked from the start, and took me on a meandering, tense journey that I won't soon forget.

The book tells the story of a family's heartbreak over the seemingly causeless runaway of their 14 year old daughter. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, and gives us insight into how each family member deals with that heartbreak individually, from the mother, father, brother - and the runaway herself.

Through much of the book, I was left wondering what exactly led to the family's current predicament, but as the details begin to slowly take shape, I realized that the `why' was not nearly as important as the effect it had on this family. I wanted to sit down, shake each one of them, and make them listen to each other.

Diana Abu-Jaber's writing is completely breathtaking. It is books like this that make me want to give up on my own fiction. From grief, to despair, to hopefulness and back again, this is a book that will make you feel.

p.s. It is my duty to inform you that I received a free review copy from the publisher.
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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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