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Paradise (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – April 1, 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 1st edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452280397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452280397
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (346 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, January 1998: Toni Morrison's Paradise takes place in the tiny farming community of Ruby, Oklahoma, which its residents proudly proclaim "the one all-black town worth the pain." Settled by nine African American clans during the 1940s, the town represents a small miracle of self-reliance and community spirit. Readers might be forgiven, in fact, for assuming that Morrison's title refers to Ruby itself, which even during the 1970s retains an atmosphere of neighborliness and small-town virtue. Yet Paradises are not so easily gained. As we soon discover, Ruby is fissured by ancestral feuds and financial squabbles, not to mention the political ferment of the era, which has managed to pierce the town's pious isolation. In the view of its leading citizens, these troubles call for a scapegoat. And one readily exists: the Convent, an abandoned mansion not far from town--or, more precisely, the four women who occupy it, and whose unattached and unconventional status makes them the perfect targets for patriarchal ire. ("Before those heifers came to town," the men complain, "this was a peaceable kingdom.") One July morning, then, an armed posse sets out from Ruby for a round of ethical cleansing.

Paradise actually begins with the arrival of these vigilantes, only to launch into an intricate series of flashbacks and interlaced stories. The cast is large--indeed, it seems as though we must have met all 360 members of Ruby's populace--and Morrison knows how to imprint even the minor players on our brains. Even more amazing, though, are the full-length portraits she draws of the four Convent dwellers and their executioners: rich, rounded, and almost painful in their intimacy. This richness--of language and, ultimately, of human understanding--combats the aura of saintliness that can occasionally mar Morrison's fiction. It also makes for a spectacular piece of storytelling, in which such biblical concepts as redemption and divine love are no postmodern playthings but matters of life and (in the very first sentence, alas) death. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

It's the 1970s, and four young women living in a convent near an all-black town have been viciously attacked. This is Morrison's first novel since winning the Nobel prize, and by the time she's done, she has taken on Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, the counterculture, and more. The 400,000-copy first printing is no surprise.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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More About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of several novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), and Love. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize. She is the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University.

Customer Reviews

This is my second time reading this great book.
Julian Brooks
I hate to dedicate so much time to finish a book that I really don't enjoy but I did finish this book.
This book is one of my favorites by Toni Morrison.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Brian Hawkinson VINE VOICE on October 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Toni Morrison is one of the best authors living today, and has firmly placed herself as an author that will be read years down the road. Paradise is perhaps one of her best novels, and is one of my all time favorites (I have read it three times).

It does pose a difficult read for those looking for a casual book, because it is a deep and complexly interwoven book meant to stir emotions and one's mind. I am amazed at the spotlight reviews who seem confused by her style of writing and could not become involved with the characters. Morrison uses a recursive approach, one that breathes new life into each chapter (as a new character is introduced Morrison takes the time to back track to explain that person's past before joining the character with the present time of the book; Morrison's Master's Thesis was on Faulkner, who used the recursive style heavily). Although this could create confusion if you aren't aware of it, I think it makes for an altogether complete and compelling story.

The Convent itself and the women that reside within are compelling, and sad, stories ready to be told, and as they unfold with their interactions with Ruby it creates a book that is absolutely amazing.

This book is not for those looking for a quick easy read, or something that goes from point A to point B with no stops in between. This book will test your mind and emotions as the tale unfolds through complex chapters, leaving you with a much more fulfilling book than one that does not make you think about what you are reading. If I could give this a six star rating, I wouldn't hesitate.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jonathon on May 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Should fiction be easy? Depending on how you answer this rather basic question, you will either love or hate this book (and the rest of Morrison's catalogue, for that matter). In other words, is reading merely another hobby for you, or is it an obsession? Morrison caters to those of us who are obsessed. We may not have all read James Joyce's Ulysses, but we plan to one day. Paradise takes a rather complex story and tells it in a complex way. If you expect to have your hand held as you saunter through this novel, go read something else. Morrison challenges her reader at every turn, forcing us to exercise our intelligence. Do you draw character maps while you read books? Perhaps you should. I diagrammed the town of Ruby to the best of my ability.

The reason why so many people struggle to get through a book as difficult as Paradise (which Morrison originally planned to title "War," by the way) is because they are afraid of being confused. Morrison, however, uses confusion as a means of bringing us deeper into her world. The act of reading is not so much a discovery of answers, but of more questions. Paradise is first and foremost a mystery novel: who are the nine men with guns in the first chapter? Who is the white girl? What has provoked this violence? etc etc. Every answer that Morrison gives us comes at a price: more questions. Personally, I wouldn't want to have it any other way.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Toni Morrison made a grave error while writing Paradise-she left too much of the translation (and trust me, there's A LOT) to the reader. To the causal reader, the novel is almost completely indiscernible due to the very complex and very confusing plot structure and lack of an active narrative voice.
So did I understand Paradise? Yes, but only after carefully picking it apart chapter by chapter in one of my English seminars. Even now, I'm not so sure that I truly comprehend all of the book's themes. And do I understand the ending? Yes, but only after wading through hours of various interviews with Morrison in which she discussed her book to great length. Most importantly, was the book worth the read? I believe so, but I devoted a lot of work to Paradise before arriving at this conclusion. Morrison's writing style is not to be taken lightly; words and themes often contain several, and sometimes seemingly infinitesimal, levels of meaning. The bottom line is that what you take away from Paradise, if anything, is up to you. If you want to walk away from this novel with any sort of satisfaction, be prepared to commit a lot though and research to the undertaking.
Now, I'm not going to discuss the novel's meanings here for those who don't have the time or the will to put in the sort of work I'm talking about because doing so would far exceed the 1,000 word limit that allows for these reviews. (I wrote 10 pages alone for my seminar on the theme of sexuality as a form of female submission and still had plenty of material left over to work with.) Whether Morrison has overextended her literary license with Paradise is debatable, but I would encourage you, the reader, to devote some effort to the reading. Who knows, you might find something worth keeping. I sure did.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By waxnwane on November 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I must preface my review by admitting I've only read Paradise once.
The writing is the same brilliant and disorienting/nonlinear style as the rest of Morrison's oeuvre. What seemed most aberrant in her first post-Nobel Prize novel was, though it was highly intellectually stimulating, for me "Paradise" lacked the connection to the heart that is inseparable from her previous books. It seemed to try to meet expectations the public would have of a Nobel Prize Laureate. (Who can blame her? She remains a wonder.) But to me it was a bit forced, especially with an (overly?) dramatic opening line "They shoot the white girl first."
I will read any novel Morrison writes, they are all worth reading, including Paradise, but if you are new to her, you would be best off starting with Song of Solomon, Sula, and then Beloved.
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