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Children of Paradise: A Novel Hardcover – February 11, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062277324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062277329
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Fred D’Aguiar’s 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)

From the Back Cover

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.

Customer Reviews

The story is well written from the unique perspective of a captive gorilla.
Wilhelmina Zeitgeist
It kind of felt like "Lost" (the TV show) did at the end where you think you know what is happening and then you realize you don't - but not in a good way.
T. Sullivan
The last thirty or so pages will have you turning them quickly as this riveting novel reaches its climax.
H. F. Corbin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By kacunnin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fred D'Aguiar's CHILDREN OF PARADISE is, at first glance, a rather sterile novel, especially considering the emotional context of the story it tells. Set in Guyana in 1978, the novel traces the final days of Jim Jones's quasi-religious cult, the People's Temple, told from several disparate viewpoints (including that of a caged gorilla who bears witness to some of the unfolding action). I have vivid memories of the horror that Jones wrought, inducing his nearly one thousand followers (including many young children) to poison themselves in an attempt to find paradise. The photographs taken at the scene, many of which graced the covers of Newsmagazines back in November of 1978, are forever etched in my memory - people lined up beside each other, one after the other, seemingly acres of them, all dead and gone.

D'Aguiar's story focuses mainly on a woman named Joyce and her ten-year-old daughter Trina. Joyce was a follower of the charismatic Reverend (called "Father" here, but never Jim Jones), leaving California with her daughter to start a new life in the jungles of Guyana. In the compound there are strict rules enforced by armed guards and prefects. Those caught breaking the rules are beaten, or worse. When Trina gets too close to the cage housing the compound's gorilla (called Adam), she is apparently killed. But Father brings her back to life in front of his gathered congregation, using her "resurrection" as a means of further indoctrinating his flock and cementing their allegiance to him and his madness. If you know what happened at Jonestown, you'll know how this story ends. But D'Aguiar isn't as interested in the details of this tragedy; instead he focuses on Trina's emerging awareness of the reality of her world, her connection (is it spiritual or metaphysical?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Already in his narrative poem BILL OF RIGHTS, Fred D'Aguiar has explored the 1978 cult-suicide at Jonestown in his native Guyana, in which 909 members of the People's Temple were led to drink cyanide-laced Kool Aid under the aegis of their charismatic preacher, Jim Jones. Now he returns to it in novel form, lightly concealing the proper names, and offering an intimate viewpoint with a touch of magic realism thrown in. He assumes, I think, that his readers will know the outlines of the story; I can't imagine how this would work for those that don't. But even if you read up all the details, they merely provide the background to D'Aguiar's story, which starts in a different place, has a different focus, and leads -- possibly -- to a different ending.

Daringly, D'Aguiar opens not with a human being but with a gorilla, Adam, the Preacher's pet, kept in a cage in the middle of the compound. One of a group of children playing too close to the cage is grabbed by the gorilla and apparently squeezed to death. Until she is "resurrected" by the Preacher the next day as further proof of his charismatic powers. This is Trina, a twelve-year-old who becomes the focus of a group of children in the story, just as her mother Joyce becomes the adult protagonist. With her MBA, Joyce is valuable to the Preacher in a variety of practical ways, some of which involve boat journeys to the capital, during which she strikes up a friendship with the Captain that begins to erode her unquestioning loyalty to the commune. Trina becomes a special favorite of the Preacher, but both she and her mother discover that his favor can be as quickly withdrawn.

Jim Jones aimed to set up a Marxist commune, run ostensibly on Christian principles.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E.B. Bristol VINE VOICE on January 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Children of Paradise," by Fred D'Aguiar is a novelization of the Jonestown tragedy set in Guyana in 1978. Because it opens with a named individual - Adam - in a cage behaving in a rather human-like manner, I wondered if it was an actual person, but no, it's a gorilla, from whose perspective much of the story is told. This is noteworthy because so few characters - all human - in the book are given names, and most who are, receive little character development. Though there are endless descriptions of the landscape, so that it's easy to visualize, when it comes to the people, almost no physical characteristics are provided to help distinguish them. I'm sure some readers won't mind, but I personally found this frustrating.

The leader of the commune is referred to only as "the preacher" throughout the entire book, and other characters are merely "the president," etc. Even Captain Aubrey, who heads the riverboat which regularly transports commune supplies, is referred to only as "the captain," though he plays a key role. The other important characters are Joyce, a single mother and her ten-year-old daughter, Trina, who have both fled from the US to this strange and increasingly frightening place. Though young Trina, an imaginative and compassionate child with a gift for music, enjoys (for lack of a better term) favoritism from the preacher, the two are still subject to the commune's system of bizarre rules, lectures and punishments.
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