Paradise Park

Goodman, Allegra

Published by The Dial Press, 2001
ISBN 10: 0385334168 / ISBN 13: 9780385334167
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This is a used book. Potential defects may exist (folds, creases, highlighting, writing/markings, staining, stickers and/or sticker residue, ETC.) COAS Books, A Bookstore for Everyone. Ships Within 24 Hours - Satisfaction Guaranteed!. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: Brilliant, fresh, funny, and wise, Allegra Goodman has delighted readers with her short stories in The New Yorker and her critically acclaimed collections Total Immersion and The Family Markowitz. Her celebrated first novel, Kaaterskill Falls, was a national bestseller and a National Book Award finalist. The novel, wrote Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, "ratifies the achievement of the author's short stories, even as it announces the debut of a gifted novelist."

Now, in Paradise Park, Goodman introduces one of the most endearing, exasperating, and indomitable heroines in modern literature: Sharon Spiegelman. Abandoned by her folk-dancing partner, Gary, in a Honolulu hotel room, Sharon realizes she could return to Boston—and her estranged family—or listen to that little voice inside herself. The voice that asks: "How come Gary got to pursue his causes, while all I got to pursue was him?"

Thus, with an open heart, a soul on fire, and her meager possessions (a guitar, two Indian gauze skirts, a macrame bikini, and her grandfather's silver watch) Sharon begins her own spiritual quest: living with the red-footed boobies, embracing the Edenic rain forests of Molokai, seeking enlightenment (with and without men) at the Greater Love Salvation Church, the Consciousness Meditation Center, a couples workshop in Waikiki, the Torah-Or Institute in Jerusalem, and in Professor Friedell's University of Hawaii course on world religions. Ever the optimist, Sharon is sure each time that she has struck it rich "spiritually speaking"— until she comes up empty.

Then, in a karmic convergence of events, Sharon starts on the path home to Judaism. Still, even as she embraces her tradition, Sharon's irrepressible self tugs at her sleeve. Especially when she meets Mikhail, falls truly in love at last, and discovers what even she could not imagine—her destiny.

Review: Ditched by her boyfriend, estranged from her family, the protagonist of Paradise Park wakes up in a Waikiki fleabag on the first day of the rest of her life, dreaming of God. This is in the 1970s, and Sharon Spiegelman doesn't initially strike the reader as a likely candidate for religious conversion. She's a 20-year-old hippie folk dancer from Boston, with a guitar and a crocheted bikini and hair down to her hips. Finding herself in paradise, however, Allegra Goodman's heroine begins a quest that lasts a quarter of a century.

Seldom proceeding in a straight line, Sharon begins by counting red-footed boobies as part of an ornithological census. Soon she's cultivating marijuana in the jungles of Molokai. In these adventures and subsequent ones, Sharon displays a sweet nature but questionable judgment when it comes to romance and gainful employment. Drifting through a string of dead-end boyfriends and jobs, she eventually has a vision of God during a whale-watching cruise. And this enlightenment leads her into the fold of the Greater Love Salvation Church, a Pentecostal revivalist sect, where's she left in a state of temporary beatitude:

I'd heard the expression before of walking on air, but this was the real thing, because when I left that church, my feet were so springy that as I walked, they barely touched the ground. It was like my head had floated up and my neck had gone all long and slender like a giraffe's so my face was a little giraffe face up there, bending and bobbing in the breezy night air. And I walked all the way back from Manoa to Waikiki, back to the hotel in the darkness, and smelled the flowers and just caressed the whole world with my eyes.
Suffice it to say that the Greater Love congregation is only the first stop in a quest that eventually leads Sharon to spiritual and corporeal fulfillment in Hasidic Judaism. As always, Allegra Goodman has a light touch with serious matters, and in Paradise Park she creates a surprisingly complex and endearing heroine. --Victoria Jenkins

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Paradise Park
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Acceptable

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