(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Nobel laureate Morrison creates another richly told tale that grapples with her ongoing, central concerns: women's lives and the African American experience. Morrison has created a long list of characters for this story that takes place in the all-black town of Ruby, Oklahoma, population 360, which was founded by freed slaves. In what could be seen as an attempt to create some of the same mysticism that was present in many of her previous works, Morrison alludes to Ruby's founding citizens, now ghosts, and only minimally focuses on the present generations that have let the founding principles of Ruby's forebears deteriorate. Paradise is an examination of the title itself and deliberately builds into a plot that is unexpected and explosive. This is Morrison's first novel since her 1993 Jazz, and it is well worth the wait. Highly Recommended for all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/97.]Emily J. Jones, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
We all long for paradise, although we are apparently incapable of creating one. And America, immense and wild at heart, has always made paradise seem possible to the oppressed, the enraptured, and the lost. It is this dream of utopia in a world of tangled and deeply rooted conflicts that Morrison explores and dramatizes in this tentacled and gripping novel about life in a small, all-black Oklahoma town during the 1970s. Oklahoma is spacious enough for people to achieve physical and moral isolation, which is just what the determined citizens of Ruby have done. Descendants of slaves who founded a town called Haven during Reconstruction, the people of Ruby are proud of their pure African American heritage, their religious convictions, and their prosperity, and not at all welcoming of strangers, especially the suspect females congregating at an old mansion known as the Convent. Once a school for Indian girls, it is now the home of an enigmatic, beautiful, and racially ambiguous woman named Consolata. Young women hitchhiking their way cross-country or driving stolen cars--refugees from domestic violence, disastrous love affairs, and madness--begin to appear at Consolata's door as if by magic. As Morrison braids together their wrenching stories and the stories of Ruby--the stern twin brothers who own the bank, their forgiving wives, young people feeling the pull of the greater world, a preacher skeptical of the town's insularity--she subtly connects their travails to tragedies of the past, including the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as to the pervasiveness of "disorder, deception, and drift." Morrison is at her complex and commanding best in this mysterious tale as she presents a unique perspective on American history and leaves her dazzled readers shaking their heads over all that is perpetually inexplicable between men and women, rich and poor, the tyrannical and the free spirited. --Donna Seaman