The True History of Paradise: A Novel

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9780812979831: The True History of Paradise: A Novel
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It is 1981. Jean Landing secretly plans to flee her beloved Jamaica–the only home her family has ever known, a place now rife with political turmoil. But before she can make her final preparations, she receives devastating news: Lana, her sister, is dead. The country’s state of emergency leaves no time to arrange a proper funeral. Even Jean’s mother, Monica, who hadn’t spoken to Lana in more than a decade, cannot fully embrace her grief.

The tragedy only underscores Jean’s need to leave an island that holds no promise of a future. Her harrowing journey to freedom across a battered landscape takes Jean through a terrain of memories: of her childhood, with a detached mother at odds with an adoring father, of her complex bond with Lana, and of the friends and lovers who have shaped and shared her days. Epic in scope, The True History of Paradise poignantly portrays the complexities of family and racial identity in a troubled Eden.

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Review:

It's 1981 and Jean Landing is about to flee her disintegrating homeland, Jamaica, but first, she must bury her sister. Lana, a pop singer in the early days of Reggae, has immolated herself in a moment of madness and must be buried immediately "because, as someone explains to Jean, burned bodies decompose quickly." The funeral takes place in the morning; that afternoon, Jean is on her way across the mountains to a rendezvous with a private plane that will take her to the States. Accompanied by her childhood friend, Paul, she drives across her island nation, noting the increasingly violent confrontations between political factions even as she retreats into memories of her own fractured past:

Ghosts stand on the foothills of this journey. She smells their woody ancestral breath in the land's familiar crests and undulations. She has heard them all her life, these obstinate spirits, desperate to speak, to revise the broken grammar of their exits. They speak to her, Jean Landing, born in that audient hour before daylight broke on the nation, born into the knowledge of nation and prenation, the old noises of barracks, slave quarters, and steerage mingling in her ears with the newest sounds of self-rule. On verandas, in kitchens, in the old talk, in her waking reveries and anxious dreams, she has heard their stories.
From her own mother, the light-skinned, "selfish and adamant" Monica, sister Lana, and deceased father, the black nationalist Roy Landing, to her white ancestor Rebecca Crawford, they are all here, sometimes in Jean's memory, other times telling their stories in their own voices. It's a complicated weave of story lines and voices, but Margaret Cezair-Thompson carries it off with aplomb. The True History of Paradise explores both the political and the personal as Jean's childhood remembrances play out against the war-torn landscape of Jamaica. Near the end of the novel Jean reflects, "To leave one's country. It is not a complete sentence, a complete anything. Its infinitive possibilities leap from loss to promise and back again from promise to loss." This promising first novel makes those leaps with nary a stumble. --Margaret Prior

About the Author:

Margaret Cezair-Thompson is the author of the widely acclaimed The Pirate’s Daughter, a #1 Book Sense pick, finalist for Book Sense Book of the Year, and winner of the first annual Essence literary award for fiction. Born in Jamaica, West Indies, she teaches literature and creative writing at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780452280755: The True History of Paradise: A Novel

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ISBN 10:  0452280753 ISBN 13:  9780452280755
Publisher: Plume, 2000
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9780525944904: The True History of Paradise: A Novel

Dutton..., 1999
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9780750531801: The True History Of Paradise

Magna ..., 2010
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9780755347049: The True History of Paradise

Random..., 2009
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9780755347056: The True History of Paradise

Headli..., 2008
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