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In this beautifully imagined novel, based on the horrific true events at Jim Jones's utopian commune in Guyana, the acclaimed novelist, playwright and poet Fred D'Aguiar returns to the land of his youth, interweaving magical realism and shocking history into a story that resonates with love, faith, oppression, and sacrifice in which a mother and daughter attempt to break f In this beautifully imagined novel, based on the horrific true events at Jim Jones's utopian commune in Guyana, the acclaimed novelist, playwright and poet Fred D'Aguiar returns to the land of his youth, interweaving magical realism and shocking history into a story that resonates with love, faith, oppression, and sacrifice in which a mother and daughter attempt to break free with the help of an unlikely ally, an extraordinary gorilla The commune was meant to shepherd them to Paradise. Joyce and her young daughter, Trina, have followed a charismatic preacher from California to the jungles of Guyana, along with nearly a thousand others of God's chosen people, where they have built a communist utopia based on a rigid order and unceasing loyalty. When Trina, playing too close to the cage holding the commune's pet gorilla, Adam, is attacked, everyone believes she has been killed. That night, the preacher dramatically "revives" her-an act that transforms Trina into a symbol of the commune's righteousness and its leader's extraordinary, God-like power. But Trina's resurrection is both a blessing and a curse for Joyce. Life in the compound has become precarious since she rejected the preacher's sexual advances. The danger has only grown since her skepticism of the commune's harsh mandates and punishments have become increasingly known. To save herself and Trina from the inevitable mass suicides that the commune has already begun to rehearse, she attempts a daring escape, aided by the local boat captain that loves her, and the most unlikely of prisoners-the extraordinary Adam. Told with a sweeping perspective in lush prose, shimmering with magic, and devastating in its clarity, Children of Paradise is a brilliant and evocative exploration of oppression-of both mind and body-and of the liberating power of storytelling.


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In this beautifully imagined novel, based on the horrific true events at Jim Jones's utopian commune in Guyana, the acclaimed novelist, playwright and poet Fred D'Aguiar returns to the land of his youth, interweaving magical realism and shocking history into a story that resonates with love, faith, oppression, and sacrifice in which a mother and daughter attempt to break f In this beautifully imagined novel, based on the horrific true events at Jim Jones's utopian commune in Guyana, the acclaimed novelist, playwright and poet Fred D'Aguiar returns to the land of his youth, interweaving magical realism and shocking history into a story that resonates with love, faith, oppression, and sacrifice in which a mother and daughter attempt to break free with the help of an unlikely ally, an extraordinary gorilla The commune was meant to shepherd them to Paradise. Joyce and her young daughter, Trina, have followed a charismatic preacher from California to the jungles of Guyana, along with nearly a thousand others of God's chosen people, where they have built a communist utopia based on a rigid order and unceasing loyalty. When Trina, playing too close to the cage holding the commune's pet gorilla, Adam, is attacked, everyone believes she has been killed. That night, the preacher dramatically "revives" her-an act that transforms Trina into a symbol of the commune's righteousness and its leader's extraordinary, God-like power. But Trina's resurrection is both a blessing and a curse for Joyce. Life in the compound has become precarious since she rejected the preacher's sexual advances. The danger has only grown since her skepticism of the commune's harsh mandates and punishments have become increasingly known. To save herself and Trina from the inevitable mass suicides that the commune has already begun to rehearse, she attempts a daring escape, aided by the local boat captain that loves her, and the most unlikely of prisoners-the extraordinary Adam. Told with a sweeping perspective in lush prose, shimmering with magic, and devastating in its clarity, Children of Paradise is a brilliant and evocative exploration of oppression-of both mind and body-and of the liberating power of storytelling.

30 review for Children of Paradise

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Presley

    When you are telling a story about an entire community that no longer lives, who narrates the story? Consider this for a moment. As an author, do you pick one of the dying? Do you pick the remote outsider who, in no way, could not possibly know the intricacies of daily life? From the first page, Fred D'Aguiar hit it out of the park with Children of Paradise, a fictionalized story based on Jim Jones utopian society of Jonestown. Ever heard the expression, "drinking the Kool-aid"? Well, this is th When you are telling a story about an entire community that no longer lives, who narrates the story? Consider this for a moment. As an author, do you pick one of the dying? Do you pick the remote outsider who, in no way, could not possibly know the intricacies of daily life? From the first page, Fred D'Aguiar hit it out of the park with Children of Paradise, a fictionalized story based on Jim Jones utopian society of Jonestown. Ever heard the expression, "drinking the Kool-aid"? Well, this is the story that started that and it's all told in a third person narrative that keys into one figure in the society that is the most removed - Adam, the captured gorilla. Read the rest of this review at The Lost Entwife on Dec. 22, 2013.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mocha Girl

    “He reminds them their children belong to God and their lives will be better in God’s hands and not his and not this commune, and no place on this god-forsaken earth is good enough for his flock, only the kingdom of heaven, only everlasting life.” Inspired by the actual events of Jonestown, Guyana, Children of Paradise is an imagined story told from primarily three points of view: a child (Trina), her mother (Joyce), and Adam (the caged “pet” gorilla) during the last months before the tragedy. T “He reminds them their children belong to God and their lives will be better in God’s hands and not his and not this commune, and no place on this god-forsaken earth is good enough for his flock, only the kingdom of heaven, only everlasting life.” Inspired by the actual events of Jonestown, Guyana, Children of Paradise is an imagined story told from primarily three points of view: a child (Trina), her mother (Joyce), and Adam (the caged “pet” gorilla) during the last months before the tragedy. Trina and Joyce’s backstories are sketchy but it’s through their roles and experiences we glimpse life in the commune where they live under-nourished, over-worked, in fear, and under heavy armed guard. Although one can google to become familiar with the outcome, the author’s attempt to give a voice to the children is notable. It is easy to sympathize and empathize with the elderly, the defenseless children, and the adults who “awoke” too late to feel powerless, trapped with no means of escape. Throughout the story, I kept wondering why these seemingly intelligent people would allow a paranoid, drugged-out, Bible-quoting lunatic exercise complete control over their lives, their income, their children, and their well-being. Of course, the “why” is not really addressed in the book (and I’ll wager after all this time, many still the answer to “why”); but the “how” was sufficiently addressed by the author. He weaved in the overt and subtle methods used to physically and emotionally isolate (they were really imprisoned), separate and douse them with proven mind-control tactics, unpredictable reward/punishment cycles, tons of Communist/Political propaganda, and various other (Biblically inspired) psychological manipulation games to keep them in fear and obedient. Not to mention the physical ailments (fever, diarrhea, bites/infections, poor medical care) they constantly faced living in poorly constructed housing in the middle of a jungle with no climate control. Although the commune’s leader was not the focus of the novel, Trina, Joyce, and Adam’s interactions with him paint him to be a charlatan - a liar, a hypocrite, a thief, a master manipulator. The same behavioral techniques he employs to tame Adam, a wild beast, he applies to his human flock; the parallels are effective and uncanny: parents are separated from their children (Adam’s mother is killed, he’s orphaned, caged and fed; communal children are housed, educated, fed separately from their parents, in fact they only see their parents for a couple of hours in the evenings), music is used to elicit certain responses, etc. The author’s rendering gives the reader a solid sense of place and community, but somehow the storytelling still feels a bit flat Nonetheless, I would recommend to others who are interested in the event and life within the commune.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I remember hearing about Jim Jones, his commune and the over nine hundred people that he had drink the poisonous kool-aide. I of course was appalled and wondered how one man could convince all these people to leave their lives and follow him to a jungle location and then literally kill themselves. What makes people so desperate and one man so enthralling? The author explains that the subject of this book was influenced by that happening but does not exactly follow those events. The author himsel I remember hearing about Jim Jones, his commune and the over nine hundred people that he had drink the poisonous kool-aide. I of course was appalled and wondered how one man could convince all these people to leave their lives and follow him to a jungle location and then literally kill themselves. What makes people so desperate and one man so enthralling? The author explains that the subject of this book was influenced by that happening but does not exactly follow those events. The author himself was raised in Guyana until the age of twelve, so I am sure he had heard many, many stories about these events, as he was growing up. Even though this book is not exact in its telling it is still chilling in its realism. The jungle, the city when the commune workers need to go to their headquarters, though only trusted workers were allowed off site, were beautiful and lushly described. As if the beauty stands in direct contrast to the evil that was being perpetrated in the commune. Joyce, a college graduate and her daughter Trina, follow Jones from California to Guyana. They are some of the more privileged members and it is their story that this novel follows. Also Adam, and I think he was the star of the show. A gorilla who was caged on the commune, used to provoke fear in the followers, but a thinking being in this book. his thoughts and actions are a wonderful addition to this story. Of course as was true in the real story, Jones declining health, outside forces spinning out of control and is anyone in this version left alive? That would be spoiling the story for other and I would never do that. Very good novel, felt like I was part of their lives for a short time, could not help pulling for Joyce, Trina and the other children, Adam as well.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Trina and her mother, Joyce left to make a new life in the jungles of Guyana. Trina's motehr followed the "Preacher". Now they are among others who also have followed in the way of the "preacher". One day an incident happens to changes Trina and her mother's lives forever. Trina is attacked by the community's gorilla named Adam. She was originally thought dead until she was brought back to life. Things don't get better for Trina. In fact all the extra attention makes Trina nervous. Then there is Trina and her mother, Joyce left to make a new life in the jungles of Guyana. Trina's motehr followed the "Preacher". Now they are among others who also have followed in the way of the "preacher". One day an incident happens to changes Trina and her mother's lives forever. Trina is attacked by the community's gorilla named Adam. She was originally thought dead until she was brought back to life. Things don't get better for Trina. In fact all the extra attention makes Trina nervous. Then there is her mother, Joyce. She turned the "Preacher"s advances down and her life is awful. Trina and Joyce will escape with the one person they never expected help from...Adam. If you are looking for a change from the normal world of vampires, zombies, werewolves, and other paranormal creatures then you need to check this book out. There is nothing scarier then a cult. As far as I am aware I have not met a vampire or werewolf but I know cults exist and therefore they are filled with mystery, evil, deceit, and tons of people put their faith in one person. Kind of like what our government could become. A Nazi communist government where we will all follow one person and be told how to act and what to do. I don't know about you but the thought of this is really scary. The "Preacher" is not a in your face type of guy but everything he does, he does with a purpose. He is a monster. For me the one that really was the star of this book is Adam. He felt real, almost like a person with a thinking brain then just a gorilla. The pacing for this book is not a lot of action like I normally enjoy but what it lacked there it did make up for in the characters and the story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    cardulelia carduelis

    Another book with such an exciting premise, only to fail utterly on delivery. I enjoyed the first 30 or so pages of Children of Paradise: the writing was nothing special but it was clear and the plot moved along. The Gorilla POV was gimmicky but didn't throw off the story, it didn't really add anything either. But then we reached a flat point in the story - daily life in the camp - and everything became extremely tedious. Joyce's loyalties jumped all over the place, her actions conflicted with he Another book with such an exciting premise, only to fail utterly on delivery. I enjoyed the first 30 or so pages of Children of Paradise: the writing was nothing special but it was clear and the plot moved along. The Gorilla POV was gimmicky but didn't throw off the story, it didn't really add anything either. But then we reached a flat point in the story - daily life in the camp - and everything became extremely tedious. Joyce's loyalties jumped all over the place, her actions conflicted with her inner dialogue and it felt less like there was inner turmoil and more like we were dealing with two separate characters. The naive blindess of the preacher's followers was also pretty incredible - I wasn't buying it at all. The boatsman storyline was all a little too neat and tidy too. Overall, after the first 30 pages, the book felt more like a fabrication than something that could have been inspired by true events. It ran out of conflict and instead of building tension felt like it was struggling to figure out how to get to the main event. The final act is just awful - one of the worst copouts you can imagine. Something you'd expect to see in a primary school creative writing piece rather than a published, and lauded, novel. The only reason this gets 2 stars and not 1 is that it was readable and it's only offense was making an amazing story totally lifeless. I left it on the plane.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    I really enjoyed this, even though it's based on Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre. The story focuses on a mother and daughter (and a gorilla!) based inside the camp - highly recommended. I really enjoyed this, even though it's based on Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre. The story focuses on a mother and daughter (and a gorilla!) based inside the camp - highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    Because the ending was so whacky, it is where I start with this review. What is the takeaway for the reader? It is pretty unclear in the murky ending, was there an escape? Were they all left drinking or dreaming? I think the author tried to be poetic with the ending, but I don't really think it worked well and for me dropped the book to 2 stars. From the jacket blurb we learn this novel is based on "the terrible truths of Jonestown, Jim Jones's utopian commune in Guyana..." If one is unfamiliar Because the ending was so whacky, it is where I start with this review. What is the takeaway for the reader? It is pretty unclear in the murky ending, was there an escape? Were they all left drinking or dreaming? I think the author tried to be poetic with the ending, but I don't really think it worked well and for me dropped the book to 2 stars. From the jacket blurb we learn this novel is based on "the terrible truths of Jonestown, Jim Jones's utopian commune in Guyana..." If one is unfamiliar with the events of Jonestown, there are plenty of sources to get you up to speed. So you have the megalomaniac preacher who leads the commune through manipulation, trickery and fear with the bible and everlasting life as his twin pillars. There is the Gorilla, Adam who sits caged in the middle of the commune and serves as intimidator to the children and confidant to the preacher who is never named. Adam is used to torture those who have transgressed in some way, they are pushed into the cave to be thrown around by Adam and have bones broken. The two central figures of the novel are Joyce and her daughter Trina, with Adam also playing a prominent supporting role. Trina has become a favorite of the preacher after she plays along in her "resurrection" and is now seen as being literally born again. Joyce who comes to the commune after a sketchy failed relationship is wholly devoted to the preacher, until the machinations with her daughter become increasingly bizarre and dangerous. Her transformation from devotee to potential escapee is not handled with any depth, which is a failure of the narrative, and leaves the reader adrift. The question is how does the preacher hold such sway over the commune. Well, anytime you give up your capacity to think for yourself, you can easily be led by those who appear to have a gift and a greater understanding of an idea, like religion. A byproduct of the novel may be, to clearly question any man/woman who demands blind allegiance to any belief, religious or otherwise. The novel could have certainly benefitted from more development of the how and the why.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    This is an interesting novel based on the horrific events at Jonestown. This is a very stylized, literary re-telling with a constantly shifting perspective - opening up from the eyes of Adam, the commune’s gorilla. But this adds to paint a complete picture of life in the commune without ever once straying into a lurid tone or sensationalization of the topic. It is an absorbing novel from its very first pages and even for those who are not familiar with the events surrounding the 918 deaths at th This is an interesting novel based on the horrific events at Jonestown. This is a very stylized, literary re-telling with a constantly shifting perspective - opening up from the eyes of Adam, the commune’s gorilla. But this adds to paint a complete picture of life in the commune without ever once straying into a lurid tone or sensationalization of the topic. It is an absorbing novel from its very first pages and even for those who are not familiar with the events surrounding the 918 deaths at this commune in Guyana, D’Aguiar does a wonderful job of resurrecting life in the commune - but in a respectful manner and never once overly emphasizing garish points. The style choices of inconsistent perspective, the present tense and lack of quotation marks take a little getting used to, but the lush prose more than compensates from these distractions. Adam brings a surreal quality to the novel. But not even all of the beauty of the rainforest can mask the very genuine evil and horror of living under Jim Jones’ rule. The author skirts around this name - choosing instead to refer to him only as “the preacher” or “the reverend” - which can sometimes muddle the flow and cause some minor confusions. The sermons, too, become repetitive after a while, but it is all a part of D’Aguiar immersing the reader into life in the commune. The ending may disappoint some, but I think it - along with some ambiguity in some scenes - will certainly open the floor for lively discussion amongst book clubs and discussion groups. The book moves rather slowly at times, but this works to help sink in this surreal reality within the reader. It is definitely one of the strongest fictionalizations of life in a cult that I have ever encountered!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    I so enjoy books where lyrical evocative writing brings to life the time and place of the storyline. Children of Paradise is such a book. The time is the late 1970s, and the place is commune deep in the jungles of Guyana. The storyline is loosely based on the true events of Jim Jones’s utopian community but especially speaks to the voiceless children and their lives in this environment. As beautiful as the prose is it is plainspoken in oppression, heartbreak, and blind faith expected of the all I so enjoy books where lyrical evocative writing brings to life the time and place of the storyline. Children of Paradise is such a book. The time is the late 1970s, and the place is commune deep in the jungles of Guyana. The storyline is loosely based on the true events of Jim Jones’s utopian community but especially speaks to the voiceless children and their lives in this environment. As beautiful as the prose is it is plainspoken in oppression, heartbreak, and blind faith expected of the all commune inhabitants. But it was Adam, the commune gorilla that had me turning the pages. I loved hearing his thoughts on what was going on around him and how he made decisions based on his own fate and survival. His back story and what his dreams were also a nice touch. I liked how the tension was slowly built and maintained throughout the story. Even though I knew the outcome it did not keep me from being hopeful and optimistic that some would escape the fatal outcome. There is one haunting heartbreaking scene that was so beautifully written that it will stay with me long past finishing the book. The children are so hungry (they stayed in a stage of hunger and growling stomachs while the leader feasted every meal) and make a plan to “steal” a loaf of bread and Ryan decided among the children that he was the best person for the job. I was like the children holding my breath and taking every step with Ryan. I recommend this book to those who enjoy stories about wolves who walk around in sheep’s clothing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    These days, "drinking the Kool-Aid" is one of those toss-off lines - sadly, I remember watching the news when it became a horrific reality. In Children of Paradise, the author does a good job of imagining what it was like to be part of a communal group living in an unnamed South American jungle. Readers are slightly removed from the action despite the use of first person points-of-view because he never uses the word "I" but always refers to the p.o.v. by their name ("The preacher says..."). And These days, "drinking the Kool-Aid" is one of those toss-off lines - sadly, I remember watching the news when it became a horrific reality. In Children of Paradise, the author does a good job of imagining what it was like to be part of a communal group living in an unnamed South American jungle. Readers are slightly removed from the action despite the use of first person points-of-view because he never uses the word "I" but always refers to the p.o.v. by their name ("The preacher says..."). And one of those we follow? Adam, the compound's gorilla. Now that's bold! It's clear that this supposed paradise is riddled with cracks and problems (not to mention small acts of disobedience). What's not so clear is why the people adore their preacher, why they stay when it could be easy to go - much less why they put up with some of his ideas. In part this is because we never really follow a true believer, and in part it's because we join the story closer to the end than to the beginning or middle. And that ending? While it's a little muddled, it did bring back the memory of those days 35 years ago, watching the news, hearing about the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid that nearly 1,000 people drank and died. ARC provided by the publisher.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Buike

    I both loved and hated this book, which I received an Advance Copy of prior to final editing. I loved the inside look of a "Koolaid Cult", for lack of a better description, and the religious obedience ingrained into every single act. It was masterfully scary, terrifyingly realistic and yet so unbelievable that you knew it could happen anywhere at any time. However, the story did have some bits and pieces that felt disjointed and confused the overall plot, and some of the characters felt forced. I both loved and hated this book, which I received an Advance Copy of prior to final editing. I loved the inside look of a "Koolaid Cult", for lack of a better description, and the religious obedience ingrained into every single act. It was masterfully scary, terrifyingly realistic and yet so unbelievable that you knew it could happen anywhere at any time. However, the story did have some bits and pieces that felt disjointed and confused the overall plot, and some of the characters felt forced. I also found the ending to be a bit confusing, jumping between two alternates with no clear conclusion as to which was real. Overall, this was a solid read but could use a little more clarity for my tastes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Yaaresse

    I'm old enough to remember Guyana insanity and that freak Jim Jones. It should make amazing (and horrific) background for a novel. This should have been that amazing and horrific novel. Regardless, I'm abandoning it because it's yet one more author who has given into the fad of writing in present-tense and passive voice, and I have come to loathe it. It doesn't help that the two chapters I've read are from the POV of a gorilla, one that has been anthropomorphized to the point that he probably ha I'm old enough to remember Guyana insanity and that freak Jim Jones. It should make amazing (and horrific) background for a novel. This should have been that amazing and horrific novel. Regardless, I'm abandoning it because it's yet one more author who has given into the fad of writing in present-tense and passive voice, and I have come to loathe it. It doesn't help that the two chapters I've read are from the POV of a gorilla, one that has been anthropomorphized to the point that he probably has more coherent thought processes than the humans around him. This present tense BS needs to stop. Novels are not screen plays.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alison Sumprer

    This was a really good book, but so sad. I grew up hearing people talk about "drinking the kool-aid" but didn't know what it really referred to until I was an adult and watched a documentary about Jim Jones and his settlement in Guyana. This book really brought the whole, tragic thing to life for me. It was beautifully written and my heart breaks for Adam and Trina in the book, as well as the poor children who really did die that day. It was so moving and will stick with me for a long time. This was a really good book, but so sad. I grew up hearing people talk about "drinking the kool-aid" but didn't know what it really referred to until I was an adult and watched a documentary about Jim Jones and his settlement in Guyana. This book really brought the whole, tragic thing to life for me. It was beautifully written and my heart breaks for Adam and Trina in the book, as well as the poor children who really did die that day. It was so moving and will stick with me for a long time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Danél

    It was once explained to me that the story of the cult leader Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple is so unbelievable that were it merely a work of fiction, it would too implausible to be taken seriously. This theory kept running through my mind as I devoured every word of D'Aguiar's stunning attempt to test its limits. Within the first page of his exploration into the mass murder of the residents of Jonestown, Guyana, it is clear that he is operating well within the parameters of fiction, and that It was once explained to me that the story of the cult leader Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple is so unbelievable that were it merely a work of fiction, it would too implausible to be taken seriously. This theory kept running through my mind as I devoured every word of D'Aguiar's stunning attempt to test its limits. Within the first page of his exploration into the mass murder of the residents of Jonestown, Guyana, it is clear that he is operating well within the parameters of fiction, and that he is exploring this premise through the lens of the mythology that has shaped around the now nearly forty-year-old historical tragedy. After so many years, the phrase "don't drink the Kool-Aid" has become a parody that has comfortably made light of the disaster surrounding the events of Jonestown. Perhaps it takes a reinterpretation of the story placed within the realm of fantasy to remind us of the event's raw, devastating power-- to cushion it with a narrative that we can hold onto as it guides us into its impenetrable darkness. In any case, I cannot imagine this story being told in a more suitable fashion, even when D'Aguiar manages to find notes of dark comedy within the borders of the folklore that has been created around the cult leader. I'm reminded, in a way, that Count Dracula was once Vlad the Impaler, that Dr. Frankenstein was once Konrad Dippel -- it was not in their dark histories that their unspeakable exploits made any sense to us, but rather in the perverse fantasies shaped around them. I suspect that in a similar way, the Jim Jones mythology truely begins with D'Aguiar's breathtaking work here. I am in awe of the way that he is able to take the story that seems familiar, build unreasonable amounts of tension around its inevitable conclusion, and then pull the rug out from under his reader to convey the depths of this tragedy. Jim Jones, only called the Preacher here, emerges as a villain that brings to mind Cormac McCarthy's Judge in his unrelentingly violent convictions, and D'Arguiar surrounds him with fictional characters who must interpret his actions when they are far past any reasonable comprehension. Through these fictional lenses, the Preacher somehow seems even more monstrous and demonic than he ever has, even in the most meticulous eyewitness accounts that have never successfully revealed what made Jones tick (what explanation would suffice in the real world?). And that is to say nothing of D'Aguiar's ceaselessly poetic and complicated prose that never strikes the wrong note: Here are some of the most beautifully savage physical descriptions of a jungle that I have read, which was the true, foreboding prison for the people within Jones' compound. I was left completely rattled and out of breath by the end of this one, but also deeply moved and inspired by the way that D'Arguiar depicts the unflinching and unshakable power of innocence and love in contrast to the Preacher's pain and manipulation. This one is a masterpiece, through and through -- a perverse fantasy that guides us through darkness and emerges as a fiction that mourns the truth of a terrible travesty as only great fiction can. Read this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I was unsurprised to read of the authors acclaim for poetry: the prose is lush and lyrical, weaving a spell that draws the reader in. I didn't want to be drawn in because I couldn't see things ending well. I read a lot of psychological thrillers/crime/murder/mystery books which often don't end well but somebody gets their comeuppance or lessons are learned or the key players get really drunk and shag their co-workers. No such LOLlage here. This book was loosely based on events of Jonestown, a set I was unsurprised to read of the authors acclaim for poetry: the prose is lush and lyrical, weaving a spell that draws the reader in. I didn't want to be drawn in because I couldn't see things ending well. I read a lot of psychological thrillers/crime/murder/mystery books which often don't end well but somebody gets their comeuppance or lessons are learned or the key players get really drunk and shag their co-workers. No such LOLlage here. This book was loosely based on events of Jonestown, a settlement of good agricultural intentions that became ....' mass suicide, many others, including Jonestown survivors, regard them as mass murder.[3][4] All who drank poison did so under duress, and a third of the victims (304) were minors.[5][6] It was the largest such event in modern history and resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001.[7]' 909 dead in total. The story is told from three viewpoints: Joyce, a mother who has joined because she believes the cult offers a better way of life for her and her daughter. Trina, Joyce's daughter; a pre-teen who becomes an emblem of hope when she is rescued from the camp gorilla by the charismatic cult leader. Adam, the camp gorilla. Yup, Adam has things to say. He's pretty erudite. This book is compelling, poetic and sad. I read this some time ago but recently watched Wild, Wild Country on Netflix and here's the kicker: cult leaders are never all that and when they go bad they try to take everyone with them. Gah.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erin Moxam

    I maybe could have given this a 3, but I more felt that it was okay than that I liked it. This book is kind of a fictional account based on the Jonestown massacre, which is an interesting concept. The book focuses on one woman and her daughter in particular, their life in the cult and how things unfold for them as events progress. Part of their storyline and a point of view character, is a gorilla named Adam who is a pet of the Preacher who heads the commune - also an interesting idea. There are I maybe could have given this a 3, but I more felt that it was okay than that I liked it. This book is kind of a fictional account based on the Jonestown massacre, which is an interesting concept. The book focuses on one woman and her daughter in particular, their life in the cult and how things unfold for them as events progress. Part of their storyline and a point of view character, is a gorilla named Adam who is a pet of the Preacher who heads the commune - also an interesting idea. There are two reasons I gave this book a low rating, both of which are tenuous and incredibly subjective. The first is the style, frankly, I just didn't like it, I couldn't get into it. I didn't mind Adam as a point of view character as things went on but right at the beginning was not my jam. The weird present tense of everything also made me nutty. I never felt like I 'got in' to this book deeply because of it. My second very subjective beef is that I did not like the end. Now I might have missed something, or not figured something out, but it seemed to break down into some weird dreamlike state after what seemed like some very real events and I found it weird and unsatisfying. If you're into cults it's probably worth a read, but it just wasn't the book for me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Chaney

    The author made a lot of choices with craft that did not work out. Honestly, the only reason I kept reading is because I'm reading this for a school project. It's nearly impossible to get into, and dialogue would always jolt me out of it. It was a blessing and a curse that I already know a lot about Jonestown because it allowed me to close gaps the author made assumptions about, but then it made it joltingly obvious when something was just wrong. There are so many inconsistencies, even when you The author made a lot of choices with craft that did not work out. Honestly, the only reason I kept reading is because I'm reading this for a school project. It's nearly impossible to get into, and dialogue would always jolt me out of it. It was a blessing and a curse that I already know a lot about Jonestown because it allowed me to close gaps the author made assumptions about, but then it made it joltingly obvious when something was just wrong. There are so many inconsistencies, even when you get beyond the things that might be done on purpose. Some of the descriptions were interesting, but overall the portrayal misrepresents a lot of things about the Peoples' Temple and the people who lived in Jonestown under Jim Jones. If you're thinking about reading this book, don't waste your time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    It took me a while to get into this book but when i did I couldn't put it down. Really wish I hadn't carried on reading as I never been so frustrated by an ending. I literally cant work out what is happening at the end despite reading the last few chapters again a few times. Why are Joyce, Trina , Rose and ryan lining up to drink cyanide?, didnt they make it onto the boat? how did the other children get onto the boats but have no memory of doing so? Is the captain the preacher? This book really It took me a while to get into this book but when i did I couldn't put it down. Really wish I hadn't carried on reading as I never been so frustrated by an ending. I literally cant work out what is happening at the end despite reading the last few chapters again a few times. Why are Joyce, Trina , Rose and ryan lining up to drink cyanide?, didnt they make it onto the boat? how did the other children get onto the boats but have no memory of doing so? Is the captain the preacher? This book really needs a few more chapters added to the ending to explain things better!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris Schaffer

    It was a pretty cool book though the amount of focus on Adam the gorilla was a bit odd. The suspense definitely builds to the end. I found myself slightly frustrated as I didn't understand whether Joyce, Trina and the others survived or whether it was all some kind of dream and they actually did drink the kool aid. It was a nice treatment to the Jonestown nightmare. It was a pretty cool book though the amount of focus on Adam the gorilla was a bit odd. The suspense definitely builds to the end. I found myself slightly frustrated as I didn't understand whether Joyce, Trina and the others survived or whether it was all some kind of dream and they actually did drink the kool aid. It was a nice treatment to the Jonestown nightmare.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lily Emerson

    This was a bit of a challenge for me. It was well-written, beautiful language and cadence, but the pacing just fucked me up. I found it slow and hard to get into, then was completely gripped around the half way point, only to find my interest waning towards the end. I needed more of something, though I’m not sure what. Dramatic tension? Maybe.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Scott Shepard

    Some stories are told best through a specific medium. For real life events what is the best medium? Is it a non-fiction timeline of events style book? Or a non-fiction “novel” like In Cold Blood? Movie? Podcast? What about a historical fiction novel? Children of Paradise is none of these, not really. It’s historical fiction in the strictest sense; a novelized account of the events at Jonestown. But it’s somehow more than that. It’s not quite an exact retelling. It’s a fantastical account told in Some stories are told best through a specific medium. For real life events what is the best medium? Is it a non-fiction timeline of events style book? Or a non-fiction “novel” like In Cold Blood? Movie? Podcast? What about a historical fiction novel? Children of Paradise is none of these, not really. It’s historical fiction in the strictest sense; a novelized account of the events at Jonestown. But it’s somehow more than that. It’s not quite an exact retelling. It’s a fantastical account told in large part from the perspective of a gorilla named Adam kept in captivity on sight. (The real Jonestown had a chimpanzee not a gorilla.) The author captures so many essential elements to the story by fictionalizing it, so many aspects more important that what actually happened. He captures the sense of awe the residents had for the preacher, the methods of control used, the daily struggle to survive, the blatant corruption and the deep deep tragic sadness and loss that this evil man inflicted on so many. In this fantasy retelling the massacre doesn’t go quite as planned and we get a somewhat happy ending. But the author doesn’t let you revel in that relief and shows us that he knows what he is doing. I found I gained a lot of understanding for Jonestown and cults reading this. The desire to believe in something other than yourself can be so strong in humans that they are willing to give up everything just to capture that feeling.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    DNF p. 196. Honestly, got bored. Up to that point it does a good job showing mind control in a cult. Maybe since I already how the story was supposed to end, why continue?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    In this imagined retelling of the 1978 mass suicide by the cult at Jonestown, Guyana, the author applies magical realism that conveys both the real horror and an imagined better outcome for at least some of the participants particularly the children. The author also introduces the pet gorilla of the preacher who is a symbol for the commune and also a character to whose thoughts we are privy. An outstanding and chilling story.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    An Alternate View of Horror Already in his narrative poem Bill of Rights, Fred D'Aguiar has explored the 1978 cult-suicide at Jonestown in his native Guyana, in which 909 members of the People's Temple were led to drink cyanide-laced Kool Aid under the aegis of their charismatic preacher, Jim Jones. Now he returns to it in novel form, lightly concealing the proper names, and offering an intimate viewpoint with a touch of magic realism thrown in. He assumes, I think, that his readers will know the An Alternate View of Horror Already in his narrative poem Bill of Rights, Fred D'Aguiar has explored the 1978 cult-suicide at Jonestown in his native Guyana, in which 909 members of the People's Temple were led to drink cyanide-laced Kool Aid under the aegis of their charismatic preacher, Jim Jones. Now he returns to it in novel form, lightly concealing the proper names, and offering an intimate viewpoint with a touch of magic realism thrown in. He assumes, I think, that his readers will know the outlines of the story; I can't imagine how this would work for those that don't. But even if you read up all the details, they merely provide the background to D'Aguiar's story, which starts in a different place, has a different focus, and leads—possibly—to a different ending. Daringly, D'Aguiar opens not with a human being but with a gorilla, Adam, the Preacher's pet, kept in a cage in the middle of the compound. One of a group of children playing too close to the cage is grabbed by the gorilla and apparently squeezed to death. Until she is "resurrected" by the Preacher the next day as further proof of his charismatic powers. This is Trina, a twelve-year-old who becomes the focus of a group of children in the story, just as her mother Joyce becomes the adult protagonist. With her MBA, Joyce is valuable to the Preacher in a variety of practical ways, some of which involve boat journeys to the capital, during which she strikes up a friendship with the Captain that begins to erode her unquestioning loyalty to the commune. Trina becomes a special favorite of the Preacher, but both she and her mother discover that his favor can be as quickly withdrawn. Jim Jones aimed to set up a Marxist commune, run ostensibly on Christian principles. The unnamed Preacher of the novel doesn't mention Marx, but the trappings of totalitarian dictatorship gradually become apparent as the disciplinary steps taken to keep the commune in order veer towards brutality and outright murder. I found myself thinking of Orwell's Animal Farm as the Preacher's peculiarities turned into paranoia; eventually the closest fit was to the North Korean Dear Leader in Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son. And like Kim Jong Il, D'Aguiar's Preacher keeps his people in line through his manipulation of words, in compulsory nightly sermons. These set pieces are absolutely brilliant; my one complaint is that there are too many of them. As the novel enters its final stretch three plot lines converge. One is the near-breakdown of the Preacher (who, apparently like Jones in real life, is a drug addict and serial sexual abuser). Another is the approach of the US Congressional delegation whose arrival in the real Jonestown, was the catalyst for the murders and suicides. And the third is the one in which the reader is surely most invested, the gradual coalition of a group of dissenters around Trina and Joyce, who make their own plans for escape. As we turn the pages faster and faster, we wonder how far D'Aguiar will go in rewriting the history of the real Jonestown. What he gives us is an extraordinary ending that could only have come from a poet. Many readers might think it fanciful or frustratingly enigmatic. But I found it perfect.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alli

    Children of Paradise is the story of a mother and daughter caught in the deteriorating world of a religious commune. Trapped in a foreign country without access to their passports or money and surrounded by people who would jump at the chance to turn them in as deserters, they must try to navigate their way to freedom before the "Father" enacts his plan of mass suicide. Told from the perspective of Adam, a gorilla kept caged in the center of the commune, this is a chilling, emotionally tense sto Children of Paradise is the story of a mother and daughter caught in the deteriorating world of a religious commune. Trapped in a foreign country without access to their passports or money and surrounded by people who would jump at the chance to turn them in as deserters, they must try to navigate their way to freedom before the "Father" enacts his plan of mass suicide. Told from the perspective of Adam, a gorilla kept caged in the center of the commune, this is a chilling, emotionally tense story. The commune and its leader are based on Jim Jones and his followers who fled to Guyana to build their own heaven. I was only 4 when The People's Temple members committed their mass suicide, but a few years ago read a couple of books on this terrible story and watched a documentary. Children of Paradise includes a religious settlement in Guyana, founded by a controlling and unpredictable man with substance abuse problems, very similar to Jim Jones. People who show signs of disagreeing with him or losing faith are beaten and humiliated. There isn't quite enough food for the children, and family members are encouraged to turn on each other at the slightest hint of doubt. This contributes to the books unsettling atmosphere. When reading this book, you really never know what Father will do next. As far as I know, Jim Jones never went to Africa. We don't really get an explanation of how Adam got from the jungle of Africa to a jungle in South America. He remembers his mother being shot, although he doesn't understand what was happening at the time. It seems that Adam has lived among the commune people since he was a baby gorilla -- and maybe this is being too nitpicky -- but we never learn how he got there. It bothered me enough that I started to think I was wrong about where gorillas live and had to look it up. A second difference between Father and Jim Jones is that Father mentions the death of his own dad in a tornado. Jim Jones's dad wasn't the victim of a tornado. He was an alcoholic, but at least was around until Jim was a young man. Anyway, these details may only stand out for readers expecting and wanting a true to life account of Jim Jones and his doomed commune. I will say that the discrepancies allow the reader to hope for an alternate ending, something that doesn't result in hundreds of people dying in agony, and perhaps that was D'Aguiar's purpose. Children of Paradise is written in a different style, with no quotations for dialogue. It takes a bit of getting used to and sometimes makes the story difficult to follow. This is not a light read, but something you must think about and focus on as you go from page to page. You get to know the characters by their actions and choices rather than their histories (which we aren't really privy to). I would suggest it to anyone who is interested in the psychological aspects of cults. At times the writing was beautiful and haunting, and I found myself very tied in to the fates of the main characters. I can see how this book wouldn't be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    Eerily reminiscent of The People's Temple tragedy including a psycho leader at the helm, D���Aguiar takes the reader to the bowels of cult life in the deep fauna and flora of the sweltering jungle of Guyana. No doubt I sampled life in a cult without having to actually join, thank goodness. The glimpse described was enough and from all accounts incredibly realistic. The dissension between followers and leader, downward spiral of mountebank leader, larder of cyanide - disturbing and frightening. T Eerily reminiscent of The People's Temple tragedy including a psycho leader at the helm, D���Aguiar takes the reader to the bowels of cult life in the deep fauna and flora of the sweltering jungle of Guyana. No doubt I sampled life in a cult without having to actually join, thank goodness. The glimpse described was enough and from all accounts incredibly realistic. The dissension between followers and leader, downward spiral of mountebank leader, larder of cyanide - disturbing and frightening. The drills of "white nights" along with the various behaviors from all involved were a constant reminder of the horrific days of The People's Temple. Adam, a gorilla, the cult mascot added a surprise edge to the story. His capacity for thought and emotional processing enriched the seriousness of the narrative. Adam undoubtedly served as a stimulating extension. The reader is swept away as Joyce and Trina attempt to escape this cult. Tension was felt as they devise a way to flee, and you hope their plan is not stalled or discovered. I asked myself several times how a woman as intelligent as Joyce found herself caught up in this insane predicament. She appears to be the least likely person to be involved in a cult. I wish more background was revealed on her fascination with the 'preacher' and his sect. Children of Paradise was a bit numbing. The tone of the story felt lifeless and rather tiresome, lacking colorlessness. Great job on cult life but otherwise no punch. I also felt the ending was too fragmented, leaving a sense of discord. I was curious to see how the author would parallel this story with history and in some ways he succeeded. For those that know very little or are curious about cult life or The People's Temple I'm sure this novel will be enjoyed. Clever, realistic and with Adam's presence undoubtedly original, a tad bit monotone for my taste. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    Was somewhat pleasantly surprised by this book: it is not a straightforward account of the events at Jonestown that took place in November 1978. Rather it is a deeply touching story, even if, as explained by the author, it is a 'novel inspired by Jonestown'. I loved the exciting and masterful descriptions of the tropical jungle - you hear the sounds you read on the page - after all, the author is also a poet, and this latter fact came through at each turn of the story. (An example: Morning arriv Was somewhat pleasantly surprised by this book: it is not a straightforward account of the events at Jonestown that took place in November 1978. Rather it is a deeply touching story, even if, as explained by the author, it is a 'novel inspired by Jonestown'. I loved the exciting and masterful descriptions of the tropical jungle - you hear the sounds you read on the page - after all, the author is also a poet, and this latter fact came through at each turn of the story. (An example: Morning arrives in patches of red light trembling on the trunks of trees. . . . Light sidles between leaves to end in broken-glass formations on the forest floor.) But there is the story too. I found that the plot was a bit slow at first, but it eventually spins along, you literally become enthralled and the book is very difficult to put aside. Even though we know how it all ends, this novel is about getting there, and how the main characters endure this terrible journey. In my opinion, the lack of conventional dialogue and somewhat flat characters do not detract from the tale telling; in fact, I think this adds to the 'historical' character of the fiction, while the use of the present tense throughout provides pace and presence. There is a also an element of magic realism; this only adds to the surreal atmosphere of the entire story. Which is what it is, even 36 years after the tragedy. Recommended!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rosemari

    An incident in life so disappointing and incomprehensible should be rewritten in some way that allows us to understand that, indeed, given certain circumstances this could have happened to anyone. Fred D'Aguiar's novel based on the Jonestown massacre, the mass suicide of almost a thousand people in Guyana, most of the victims poor and black, doesn't accomplish that. It does however present a thrilling story at the outset that keeps the reader wildly turning pages. I've struggled as a writer in t An incident in life so disappointing and incomprehensible should be rewritten in some way that allows us to understand that, indeed, given certain circumstances this could have happened to anyone. Fred D'Aguiar's novel based on the Jonestown massacre, the mass suicide of almost a thousand people in Guyana, most of the victims poor and black, doesn't accomplish that. It does however present a thrilling story at the outset that keeps the reader wildly turning pages. I've struggled as a writer in the 'show don't tell' area of crafting a narrative. D'Aguiar 'tells' instead of 'shows' in this work with such intent to do so, it becomes a bit acceptable, but always extremely noticeable. I chose (so much good stuff to read, new and old, and so little time) D'Aguiar's novel because it was described as my choice of genre, magical realism; didn't work as such for me. Particularly because I found the main characters, Joyce, Trina, Preacher, Adam, too predictable. Their story has been told too often; mainly that everyone is passive and stupid, but they're smart and assertive. D'Aguiar is a poet as well so I can appreciate his metaphorical detours, but they came too often at a time I wanted, (desperately needed!) some solid prose to finish telling the damn story. But that's my personal preference and certainly not a flaw in this well written work. It's an enjoyable, thoughtful, read and I'd recommend it to anyone with some spare time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eva Thieme

    This is one of the best books I've read this year. I won't go into the details of the story as other reviewers have sufficiently explained it, but I can tell you it is a gripping one. Bone-chilling and thought provoking, with traces of Lord of the Flies, Poisonwood Bible, and Mosquito Coast. Loosely based on the Jonestown massacre (or mass suicide, depending on how you define it) in Guyana in the 1970s, it tells the story of a religious cult following a megalomaniac preacher to an utopia-turned- This is one of the best books I've read this year. I won't go into the details of the story as other reviewers have sufficiently explained it, but I can tell you it is a gripping one. Bone-chilling and thought provoking, with traces of Lord of the Flies, Poisonwood Bible, and Mosquito Coast. Loosely based on the Jonestown massacre (or mass suicide, depending on how you define it) in Guyana in the 1970s, it tells the story of a religious cult following a megalomaniac preacher to an utopia-turned-nightmare experiment in the jungle. You get a glimpse of the daily life in the compound and the mind-control tactics employed by the leader and his armed guards to keep everyone at bay. You get a tiny understanding, even though it still seems incomprehensible, of why and how one man can brain-wash so many people. The story is propelled along by a daring escape attempt involving some of the colony's children. In fact, it is the way this story is mostly told from the children's point of view, as well as through the thoughts of the colony's gorilla imprisoned in a cage and used by the preacher in his sadistic punishments, that make it so compelling. And also the poetic narrative in the style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical realism. Whether you've ever heard of Jonestown or not, Children of Paradise is a very good read that will stay with you for a very long time.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Schuyler Wallace

    Fred D’Aguiar in “Children of Paradise” is attempting to tell the story of the Jim Jones commune in Guyana. In some ways it’s interesting but it mostly falls flat for me because of his attempts to bring poetry to a story that resists poetic musicality. The preacher, as the Jones inspired leader of the commune, performs sermons that mesmerize his followers and induces near catatonic disciples to follow his every command. The author does a good job of wording the sermons so even the reader can see Fred D’Aguiar in “Children of Paradise” is attempting to tell the story of the Jim Jones commune in Guyana. In some ways it’s interesting but it mostly falls flat for me because of his attempts to bring poetry to a story that resists poetic musicality. The preacher, as the Jones inspired leader of the commune, performs sermons that mesmerize his followers and induces near catatonic disciples to follow his every command. The author does a good job of wording the sermons so even the reader can see the overt seduction. But the reality ends there. There is a gorilla called extraordinary by publicists that should be labeled unbelievable. The characters wind in and out of a story that is hard to follow and the ending produces confusion and a sense of unfulfillment that renders the story unsettled. We all know how the Jonestown tragedy really ended, yet the author adds mystery and conjecture to his story making it unfathomable. The author, a native of Guyana, writes beautifully of the attributes of the location. His prose, however, written in the present tense, is less than intriguing and is sometimes difficult to decipher, perhaps too poetic in its construction. The book is an interesting look at mass hypnotism and the indecency of brainwashing, but stumbles as it tries to establish itself as authentic historical fiction.

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