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The Border of Paradise: A Novel Paperback – April 12, 2016
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"Wang's prose is beautiful and restrained, and her generous, precise characterization makes every perspective feel organic and utterly real in the face of increasingly theatrical circumstances. The result the story of an American family stretched and manipulated into impossible shapes is an extraordinary literary and gothic novel of the highest order." —Carmen Maria Machado, NPR
"Gothic in tone, epic in ambition, and creepy in spades." Kirkus Reviews
One of Library Journal's picks for Top Spring Indie Fiction:
"A well-wrought multigenerational novel that also appeals for its honest look at mental illness." Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
One of the Lit Hub's Books to Read in April:
"Wang takes Ahab’s rant of 'madness maddened' and infuses it through all of the characters in this book, not just the ones who are identified as crazy. A terrifying look at dysfunction, manipulation, and psychological torture and love, yes love. A very deftly written first novel." The Lit Hub
One of the Chicago Review of Books Best Books from Independent Presses in April
"Esmé Weijun Wang’s new novel focuses on the complex relationships among a family with a prosperous business in the post-war United States, and the conflicts and questions of family that occur over time." Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"The Border of Paradise is a magnificent achievement an exhortation for human tenderness and individual dignity in the most difficult of circumstances. Wang explores identity and family with a sense of drama that borders on gothic, without ever sacrificing the psychological texture that connects us to her characters." Adrienne Celt, author of The Daughters
"Esme Weijun Wang's relentlessly moving debut The Border of Paradise is a profound epic of potent darkness with all sorts of unexpected light. The story of the Nowak family contains notes of Lidia Yuknavitch, Christine Schutt, and Kevin Wilson, and yet remains unlike anything I've ever read. Trauma is rendered gorgeously, from every angle, within every possibility. Whether tackling New York, California, or Taiwan, Wang performs this novel with glorious courage, ambition, passion, and style." Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects and The Last Illusion
"A stunning meditation on the meaning of marriage, the limits of language, and the inescapable solitude of the mind. Esme Weijun Wang’s writing is spellbinding; her characters are hauntingly alive." Jennifer DuBois, author of Cartwheel
About the Author
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It starts with David, a neurotic young boy who inherits his family fortune. As a young adult, David travels to Taiwan and meets a woman at a brothel whom he marries and takes back to America to start a family.
We know from the opening chapter that David commits suicide when his children are still young, and this sets the gothic tone for everything that follows. The effect this has on the rest of their lives is staggering. Left with a mother who suffers from her own form of madness, David's children, William and Gillian, are kept isolated from the world in their rural California home.
In this multi-generational story, we are given alternating first-person sections for each member of the family—plus one of David's old lovers who is also swept into their orbit. What transpires is nothing short of disturbing, with an underlying sense that they are all doomed to tragedy.
It's a potent, complex and exciting debut. After a slow start, it becomes relentlessly gripping once the focus shifts to William and Gillian, culminating in a deeply haunting final section.
I recommend this book for its story, for its characters, and for the joy of the writing itself. Definitely one of the best reading experiences I've had all year.
The book is written from the perspectives of the different characters, yet it never repeats scenes and it tells the story without abrupt changes in mood or feel. There is a definite cohesiveness that pulls you into the story without, watering down each characters personality. It was well written, but it was edited with extraordinary skill.
In most books we just get one story, one perspective. This book gives you a perspective of all the characters and eventually reveals how each of their choices affects the choices of their families and how this shapes their lives. How it leads to tragedy.
We often wonder how anyone becomes who they are, especially if they end in tragedy. This book does an amazing job of giving you a possible line of events and choices that lead to several tragedies, within a family.
My only wish...the book seemed to end abruptly. Of course, it was probably my wish to keep reading. What happens to Gillian? Ok, I won't reveal more.
If you love to get into people's minds and you don't mind reading about a tragedy, this book is for you.