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Strange Piece of Paradise Paperback – March 20, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author was a Yale student biking cross-country during the summer of 1977 when she and her roommate were attacked by an axe-wielding cowboy while camping in Oregon. Jentz escaped with a gashed arm, while her friend was nearly blinded from head injuries. Fifteen years later, in 1992, Jentz returns to the scene of the attack to repair the psychic wound and attempt to close the case. Dogged in her pursuit of the truth (though largely abandoning the subtitle's promise of introspection), Jentz interviews the witnesses who saw her stumble out of Cline Falls State Park that June night; she scrutinizes police files and discovers the halfhearted investigation of suspects, learning about several horrific killings that took place in Oregon then. Jentz even befriends the former girlfriends of one suspect who becomes frighteningly plausible as the culprit. She finally tracks down the local cowboy known for carving his initials into his axe handle; though he can no longer be prosecuted for the attack, the satisfaction of seeing him convicted for another offense is a bittersweet vindication. While a thorough, forthright detective, screenwriter Jentz tends to meander and includes unnecessary detail. Still, her story is chilling and will enthrall true crime readers. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Terri Jentz's harrowing story finds voice in Strange Piece of Paradise, her first book. Critics praise Jentz's courage for returning to the scene of such violence, though several comment that the difficulty of uncovering compelling evidence nearly 30 years later precludes a satisfying conclusion. The book's chronological organization also presents some minor problems, and the book can be plodding at times. Still, the shortcomings do little to mute Jentz's powerful and elegant style, her craft honed by a career as a screenwriter. Critics favorably compare the effort to Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, and they applaud the author's willingness to face her demons.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (March 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426699
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,003,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an incredible read!

Even if the story were lacking, which it certainly isn't, Terri Jentz skillfull and honest re-telling of the events that forever altered and in many ways shaped the rest of her life could make up for it. But instead this book, 542 pages of very closely typed small print, is worth a thousand pages of raw emotion that left me feeling that it had been under, rather than overstated.

Page by page, the author takes you on a tour of her life from age 19, when as a college student at Yale, she and her roommate Shayna undertake a cross-country bicycle ride. Beginning and ending in Oregon, the summer-long excursion ends in a mere 7 days when an axe-wielding maniac first drives over the tent as the girls lie at camp sleeping, and then hacks and carves into them before returning to his truck and driving away.

The girls live, but Terri tells the story, detail by detail, and as a reader, I sensed that I too was on that bike ride, in the tent, and almost twenty years later, re-tracing both the steps leading up to the attack and the attack itself. But even more compelling is that the way Terri tells her story, all emotion is felt, including not only the fear and terror, but the emotionally blank periods in Terri's life in which, to cope with the horror, she had shut out her ability to sense the reality of what had happened to her as she related her experience to friends and acquaintences as if it were a piece of amusing fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
To Terri Jentz, Oregon is a dark and strange piece of paradise. After her freshman year at Yale, Jentz and her roommate Shayna set off on a summer 1977 Great American Journey--crossing the country from Oregon to Virginia on a BikeCentennial route. On Day 22 of the journey, Jentz and Shayna separated from a couple they had met on the road and then decided to stop for the night in an unapproved campground. They awoke that night to the unimaginable horror of a pickup truck driving through their tent, and then a handsome phantom of a cowboy striking them repeatedly with an axe.

Jentz was physically damaged by the event, but she moved on with her life as a woman unafraid of telling her story, unafraid of the dark, and still willing to tent-camp. Her companion Shayna had amnesia about the night and barely survived with limited vision. She distanced herself from Jentz and the memories of that night as much as possible.

Fifteen years later, Jentz returned to Cline Falls, Oregon to investigate her past. "Could I ever apply meaning to what had long seemed a senseless act, one that happened without pattern or reason?" "Who was the man who emerged that night in a desert park, bent on destruction?" The statute of limitations on attempted murder in Oregon was a mere three years, so Jentz's adult odyssey was truly a personal exploration, not a formal legal investigation. In Orgeon, Jentz teamed up with victim's rights advocate Dee Dee, who puts it best: "We kind of reward you because you're not very good at what you do. The only difference between attempted murder and murder is that somebody was inadequate in what they tried to do. Their intent was the same. That person is as great a danger to society as the person who completed the murder. Maybe they're a bad shot.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not normally a "true crime" or even a "memoir" lover, but this is a remarkable book. In my opinion, the book works well on three different levels:

First, it is a gripping, page-turning, dectective story with the twist that the investigation is taking place fifteen years after the crime and the victim is pursuing the criminal. Second, it is an important exaimination of the effects of voilence on our communities and an expose of our ineffective criminal justice system. Finally, the book is a powerful study of identity, an unusual "coming of age" story that takes place over thirty years. The author was deeply traumatized by her random brush with death. I found her struggle to integrate and make sense of this senseless act very moving.

This is a complex book and undoubtedly it will provoke comdemnation from some who disagree with its premisees or who do not "get" its introspective components. The author challenges conservative notions by powerfully revealing the pervasiveness of violence against women in our culture, and challenges liberal naivete about forgiveness and reformation of criminal minds. This book grapples with important issues and I hope it provokes some much needed national discussion.

This review is not particularly objective; Terri is a friend, and my parents play a supporting role in her tale. However, rather than coloring my judgement, I believe my familiarity with Terri and my family's experience as victims of crime gives me a unique vantage point for reviewing the book. Terri captures the complexity and nuances of the effects of trauma. Most importantly, her work is profoundly honest and genuine. I watched her go through this process for over a decade. Her book is the real deal.
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