Although I have mainly written reviews on books by indie authors, I have written a few about books by established authors. The one following is about Toni Morrison’s very notable novel Paradise. It made quite an impression on me!
“Paradise” is the only book I have read by Toni Morrison and I found it pretty incredible. Any new book you read will be different but this book was really unique. I worked for the Los Angeles Housing Authority and came into contact with many races and ethnicities, but always through a Los Angeles prism. The all black world of Ruby, Oklahoma was unlike any other for me. I believe it was the dark strangeness of the story and Morrison’s gift with words that set it apart.
Of course the opening line “They shoot the white girl first” sets the tone of impending doom which travels throughout the story. It has this very heavy gravity to it that you can feel. I don’t recall hardly any light moments, not that I needed them. The reader can pull up the plot from other sources—but there are critical elements to the book: the reason for the town’s existence–an attempt at utopia by insulation which of course fails; the oppressed male blacks in the town become the oppressors to the ladies in the convent—this reminded me of the observation that often the most virulent oppressors of an immigrant ethnic group is the ethnic group that immediately preceded it; the tendency in human nature to rail against the outsider, the “other”. The ladies of the convent, with their unfortunate, desperate, and sometimes sordid histories, were certainly the “other”. There is also the tendency to depersonalize the outsider, which makes it easier to commit violence against them.
I had mentioned Morrison’s skill with words. Another thing that impressed me was given the sheer number of characters in both the town and the convent, the fact that she was able to develop so many of them. By contrast, in my longest book, I have a number of character within Filipino families but only developed a few of them.
Just by reading this one work, it is very obvious to me that Morrison is a writer of great substance and vision. It did not matter that it was #3 in a trilogy—it stood on its own. I recommend it heartily to those readers who want a different experience. I am now motivated to read the other two books in the trilogy and other works by her.