Author: Toni Morrison
Narrator: Toni Morrison
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2017 [Originally published 1997]
When Paradise was released in 1997, it was the first new Toni Morrison novel since I had learned about her and started reading all of her books. I got it early on and struggled with it and had to return it to the library after only reading a small part. I checked it out again but enough time had passed that I had to start over again and I ended up still not being able to finish it. To my shame, I’ve finally read all of Paradise. It’s still a book I struggle with, featuring a lot of characters and overlapping plots.
The story takes place in Ruby, and all-Black town in Oklahoma where the prominent men of town take up arms against the women in an abandoned convent on the outskirts of town. The men treat the convent as if it were a brothel or a coven corrupting the morals in town. In fact, it is a safe place for women who are escaping abuse, exclusion, and personal tragedies, mainly brought on by the patriarchy of the town and discrimination against light-skin Black people The narrative interweaves the personal stories of women who lived and died at the convent with the history of the town.
As I’ve noted, I found this to be a complex book. It is also violent and disturbing which makes it hard for me to read. It’s nonetheless a poetic work with Morrison’s typical honesty and compassion toward her characters. But it is not going to be a favorite of mine among her novels.