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

3.8 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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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 two memoirs, Life Without a Recipe and 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: #1,368,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Let me preface by saying, while this book felt slow and cumbersome, it has an amazing story. I'd actually like to know MORE of the story. Just not written in this way. It feels painful at times, and was difficult to just sink in and live the story in my normal manner.

I was left with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and heaviness, despite the author's attempt at leaving this book on an uplifting note.

I personally read as a form of escapism. My book club elected to read this book, though, so I dug in eagerly, hoping to discover a gem I would learn to love. Although I connected with the characters individually and in their interactions with one another, I was left feeling as though all of them were being sheltered, shrouded, and treated as incomplete entities. Perhaps this was deliberate, in order to emphasize their disconnection.

I would actually rate this a 3.5 star, not just a 3. But that isn't an option Amazon is giving me. And, while the jumping back and forth between memory, the four main characters, and the timeline (sometimes re-living the beginning of a particular time with different characters, therefore feeling as though you're re-creating scenarios) was a little disconcerting, I did enjoy the writer's voice. Had I not been left feeling unfulfilled at the end of the book, I probably would have given 4 stars
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In fact, I stuck with it to beyond the halfway point, but then realized that I just ... didn't care about these people. The family was so dysfunctional that I kept saying to myself "Oh, for Pete's sake! DO something!" The mother is so self-absorbed, it is no wonder her children distance themselves from her. The father was the only sympathetic character - but I wasn't inclined to read the rest of this book to see what happened with him. I wouldn't recommend it to a friend. And I won't finish it and am sure my life will be no less rich for leaving it unfinished. I gave it two stars because the author does paint beautiful pictures with her words - her descriptions of the pastries, and of the city when she ventures out, and of her back yard and her neighbor's yard (and Mynah bird) are very evocative. But ... that's not enough.
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