Monday, December 08, 2014

Paradise by Toni Morrison

Paradise opens with an attack.

A mob of men have waged war against a group of seemingly unaware women living in a convent. So at first glance you’re thinking,” what in the world?!” because really, who attacks nuns, right?

Keep reading.

These women are far from nuns. The relationship between the group of men and women is so mangled and messy you have to go back to appreciate what has happened.

Paradise journeys to the days of former slaves seeking a place in the world. Using their skills and ingenuity to barter land and goods, they eventually forge the segregated self-sustaining township of Haven. Once turned away by other established communities, the inhabitants of Haven have a collective drive: never depend on an outsider. After many decades however, this town motto fails to prevent the influences of the outside world from planting its seeds of corruption.  By the 1950s nine families abandon the lost town in search of a new, better isolated plot of land to call home. 

Fast forward twenty plus years.

 Ruby is a town divided. Centered around twin brothers, Deacon “Deek” and Steward Morgan, descendants of the founders of the original all-black township of Haven, the citizens of Ruby look to the Morgans for morale and financial stability. However, suggestions of changing times infringes on the morality of their purist society. The Morgan brothers own, govern and control most of the town. Their determination to succeed in preserving a perfect community where their ancestors had failed puts them at odds with the younger generation of Ruby citizens, newcomers in town and particularly the odd and seemingly wicked ways of the mysterious women who have come to inhabit an old mansion known as the Convent, just outside of town.

Even in a perfect society (if one exists) no one is perfect and we start to see that in the Morgan brothers as their connection and distaste for the women living in the Convent becomes more prevalent. Paradise is a fantastic story. There is plenty of imagery, symbolism and literary elements to keep the scholarly thinking, though character driven enough to captivate the leisure reader. Still, I will say that this is not a light read. The characters are all very complex, making it extremely difficult to root for or against them from one encounter to the next.

Paradise is hands down, my favorite Toni Morrison book. Once you’ve opened yourself up to the “possibility,” you will find yourself enthralled, off-kilter and committed to the twisted ways of her characters. Pace is of course essential to any Morrison read, particularly Paradise. Even in the most urgent occasions, the author takes her time to describe the salty-sweet scent in the air, reminisces on a long ago day with that same air only to slam the reader with some supernatural bombshell, contradicting everything you thought you understood about the story. 
(Note - this review was written by Trinika.)

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