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Paradise Park Kindle Edition

39 customer reviews

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Length: 372 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ditched by her boyfriend, estranged from her family, the protagonist of Paradise Park wakes up in a Waikiki fleabag on the first day of the rest of her life, dreaming of God. This is in the 1970s, and Sharon Spiegelman doesn't initially strike the reader as a likely candidate for religious conversion. She's a 20-year-old hippie folk dancer from Boston, with a guitar and a crocheted bikini and hair down to her hips. Finding herself in paradise, however, Allegra Goodman's heroine begins a quest that lasts a quarter of a century.

Seldom proceeding in a straight line, Sharon begins by counting red-footed boobies as part of an ornithological census. Soon she's cultivating marijuana in the jungles of Molokai. In these adventures and subsequent ones, Sharon displays a sweet nature but questionable judgment when it comes to romance and gainful employment. Drifting through a string of dead-end boyfriends and jobs, she eventually has a vision of God during a whale-watching cruise. And this enlightenment leads her into the fold of the Greater Love Salvation Church, a Pentecostal revivalist sect, where's she left in a state of temporary beatitude:

I'd heard the expression before of walking on air, but this was the real thing, because when I left that church, my feet were so springy that as I walked, they barely touched the ground. It was like my head had floated up and my neck had gone all long and slender like a giraffe's so my face was a little giraffe face up there, bending and bobbing in the breezy night air. And I walked all the way back from Manoa to Waikiki, back to the hotel in the darkness, and smelled the flowers and just caressed the whole world with my eyes.
Suffice it to say that the Greater Love congregation is only the first stop in a quest that eventually leads Sharon to spiritual and corporeal fulfillment in Hasidic Judaism. As always, Allegra Goodman has a light touch with serious matters, and in Paradise Park she creates a surprisingly complex and endearing heroine. --Victoria Jenkins

From Publishers Weekly

Goodman's (Kaaterskill Falls) marvelous new novel involves a woman's tragicomic search for spiritual meaning, a journey as physically peripatetic as it is emotionally migratory. As always, the key to enjoying Goodman's fiction is gradual immersion. Her narratives do not feature razzle-dazzle plot twists or melodramatic peaks, just quietly eddying waves of emotions and events that slowly build to a tsunami of insight. When, in 1974, college dropout and folk dancer Sharon Spiegelman follows her lover from Boston to Hawaii, where he runs off with a new girlfriend, she begins a 22-year odyssey distinguished by an earnest (but na‹ve and often foolish) quest for enlightenment. Her first mystical vision of "resting in the palm of God" comes on a remote island where she has joined an environmental group; disillusionment follows. A second vision gleaned while whale watching proves similarly exhilarating, then deflating. On and on Sharon goes, bouncing from one epiphanic experience to another, changing boyfriends, menial jobs and mentors, positive each time that she has solved the puzzle of existence and ascertained her place in the world. But each new venture--whether raising marijuana; embracing a Pentecostal Christian sect, then New Age and Buddhists beliefs and practices; dropping acid; re-enrolling in college to major in comparative religions; living with Bialystocker Hasids--fails to give her lasting solace. But Sharon is learning positive truths even as she despairs of finding the answer to her cosmic questions; and her voice, a pitch-perfect mix of irreverent vernacular punctuated by hyperbolic exhilaration, is a comic triumph. Sharon's story is in essence a spiritual picaresque saga, and when she at last finds both true love and a satisfying religious commitment, she must undergo the painful test of reconnecting with her self-absorbed parents, and learn to forgive. Readers will finish the novel feeling that, given faith in the ultimate goodness of life, things can turn out right. Author tour. (Mar. 6) Forecast: Major ad/promo, including sponsorship announcements on NPR, plus a whimsical cover in an eye-catching yellow, will alert readers to Goodman's new novel; the author's golden reputation and the rave reviews this title will draw will do the rest in making this mini paradise-park of a book a well-deserved bestseller.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 966 KB
  • Print Length: 372 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (October 21, 2009)
  • Publication Date: October 21, 2009
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,445 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

I was born in Brooklyn in 1967, but grew up in Honolulu where I got to run around barefoot. I lived in Hawaii until I flew back east for college. I attended Harvard, where I stepped in my first slush puddle. Now I have waterproof boots because I live in Cambridge, Mass, with my family. Don't get me started on the winters here, and the snow days! When I'm not writing, I spend most of my time driving my four kids around, reading, thinking about getting some exercise (I like to swim), wondering what we should have for dinner, and occasionally indulging in some therapeutic vacuuming. Oh, and I keep a blog of my thoughts on the writing process, the books I'm reading and the literary life. You can find me at or join me on Facebook.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By marissa piesman on December 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I dutifully read Kaaterskill Falls for my book group, but only out of loyalty to my fellow members. It was so slow and so small, I thought. So I avoided Paradise Park until I saw it in the street for a couple of bucks. Then I remembered how much I had loved what I had read of Allegra Goodman in the New Yorker and I gave her another chance. Besides, Kaaterskill Falls was such a success, so beloved by everyone except me, why should I hold it against her? Why should she write a book especially for me? Well, as it turned out, she did and it's Paradise Park. Goodman got to me in the same way that Salinger captured me in junior high school. I ended up talking like Sharon Spiegelman for a week. Now I have my eighty-five year old mother reading the book. She not only thinks it's really funny (which we'll pay retail for in my family) but she's starting to talk like Sharon too. I am horribly fascinated by all the negative reviews, from critics and customers alike. If America hates Sharon Spiegelman, how do they feel about me? It's truly shaken my confidence. Do I sound self-absorbed? Do I sound like Sharon Spiegelman? Good!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Paradise Park isn't nearly as acoomplished as Goodman's first novel, Kaaterskill Falls, but it's a fun failure. Kaaterskill Falls was a finely tuned debut with a carefully interwoven group of characters slowly coalescing into a crystaline picture of religious Judaism in the mid 1970s. It was a finely written book. Paradise Park is an all-over-the-place scattershot of a novel that seems forced and unfocused. The meandering plot is tough to put up with -- I had to keep setting the book down and getting back at it when I'd built up more patience. As Sharon, the novel's protagonist and narrator, wanders from one spiritual experience to the next without changing as a character (until the very end), I was left just frustrated.
That said, however, there's still a lot of fun to be had reading this book. So episodic it could almost be a progressive collection of short stories, there's great pleasure to be had in some of this novel's sections. Sharon's life on the periphery of the University of Hawaii and her entanglements with various members of that community are often hilarious and touching. It was interesting to get a taste of the native culture, and Goodman writes about the island's beauty and its native inhabitants with beauty and grace.
Goodman is never able to give Sharon a consistent voice. Eloquent one page and awkward the next, Goodman vacilates between dumbing her narrator down and using her as a conduit for her (Goodman's) own insights. As a result, Sharon is a character we can never get a solid fix on. She keeps coming in and out of focus -- just when we have a feel for her, Goodman lapses back into prose that feels totally alien to Sharon, and we lose track of her again.
So this novel definitely has its pleasures, but as a whole, it's less than satisfying.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Darren in Kansas City on May 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Think of what it's like to have a flaky friend who keeps disappearing from your life. She moves away. Joins a commune. Gets a new boyfriend and becomes all caught up in his world. Breaks up and falls into a bunch of deep funks that keep her at a distance from you. Well, reading Paradise Park is like having that friend - twenty years later - tell you what the heck was going on during those years. That's probably the inherent problem in Allegra Goodman's novel, which, incidentally, sincerely captivated me. Lots of us have friends like Sharon, and sometimes we're just not patient with their flightiness and hyper-self-exploration and, yes, self-centeredness. Maybe if I really had a friend like Sharon, I could care less twenty years hence what she'd been doing all this time. Frankly, though, what is especially unique about Paradise Park is how Allegra Goodman really explores the role of spirituality and religion in a contemporary life. I appreciated that fresh exploration, so I'm recommending this admittedly meandering tale to my friends.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeri L. Stoeber on April 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I totally enjoyed Allegra Goodman's short stories, and thought that Kaaterskill Falls was an elegant, insightful work; therefore, I couldn't wait to buy her latest. What a complete disappointment! First, I just hated Sharon, the spiritual seeker in the novel. I realize that it isn't necessary to like the protagonist in order to get something out of a novel, but I had trouble getting beyond this character. Sharon embodies the worst of her generation (mine!). She is completely self centered and self serving, and all other characters exist simply to serve the narrator. This might be an interesting character study of a pathological egomaniac if Goodman had bothered to show how Sharon came to be the way she is, but all we get are hints of a lonely childhood. I hate to say this about a work by a gifted writer who features Jewish culture (my two stars are for this aspect--we need more writers like this) but I cannot recommend this book to anyone!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It took me awhile to figure out what I thought of this book which also made me realize it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as Kaaterskill Falls. I finally decided the heroine was extremely annoying. I expected her to become an adult long before she reached 40 for G-d's sake. The book is 20 years of meanderings of a selfish clueless girl whose supposedly deep spiritual thoughts and yearnings are far shallower than they first appear and whose character is never fully fleshed out. She never becomes anyone you would even remotely want to spend any time with. Although she eventually marries and has a child, you suspect no learning has occured and nothing ever changes.
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