Posts Tagged ‘Toni Morrison’

Paradise-ToniMorrison2Paradise is the first book I’ve read by Toni Morrison, and I can assure you I will read more. In fact, it’s hard for me to not go back and re-read this book right now.

Here’s a couple things I can tell you – do not read this book late at night when you’re tired; do not put it down for extended periods of time and think you will be able to easily jump right back in; and do not read it when distracted. Here’s why. Toni Morrison assumes you’re paying attention. Her characters are complex as is the storyline … there’s a lot to remember … a lot you want to remember when you’re reading Paradise. This is not light reading, but it is a truly amazing read.

Toni Morrison’s use of language is exquisite; I was thrilled repeatedly with the beauty of how she chooses and uses words. Her characters are so real I wanted to either step in the pages to be with them or have them come and sit down by me and talk; tell me about their lives and how they changed being in Ruby, OK; how they changed living in the Convent with Connie and the other women; tell me more.

The storyline of Paradise is of a group of ex-slaves freed from Louisiana and Mississippi who, rejected by their fairer skinned brethren and terrified by whites, set up their own community deep in the Oklahoma country, self-sufficient and proud. The history of their forefathers was revered and their insular lives safe. Safe except for the women who had come to live at the Convent – women whose lives had been torn apart by suffering at one time or another and who made their way, tried to heal, in this isolated home outside town. Paradise is, in part, about what happens when people come to see others the same way they once were viewed and what they do about it. And, in part, about redemption and finding one’s place in the world.

This is far, far, far too simplistic a summary of this extraordinary novel. If you want to be immersed in another time and place, in the lives of people so real it can be painful, perhaps Paradise is for you. I’m not sure what I can read right after this that will not pale beside it.

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Probably the answer to that is `yes,’ but when I think about it being books, my head just seems to automatically move from side to side … no. We can’t.

Of course, I say this in my own defense, as well might you, in the face of Tuesday’s experience. I went to vote. Our town votes in the local library. There are no services for that day, but one can still roam about and  peruse the shelves. Well, the shelves I perused were the ones in front of the check-out desk which are always filled with used/unwanted/donated books for sale. $1.00 for hardcover, $.50 for paperback.

I asked one of the ladies helping out with voting if I could just leave the librarian some money for a few books. Of course I could, just no borrowing from the main shelves. (I bet they’re all in cahoots, I thought, conspiring to entice helpless readers.) I didn’t have change, so left a bigger bill which would cover the books and a small donation to the library along with a note.

I found another book by Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife, her next after her first big success. The Joy Luck Club. That seemed like a good bet. And then I found Toni Morrison’s latest novel, Paradise, a mystery about some evil goings-on in a convent outside a small Oklahoma town. Now that sounded interesting! And then in paperback, The Power of Silence, a later book by Carlos Castaneda, and also The Secret by Rhonda Byrne … the book. (I’ve only read the web site.) What a tasty little gathering of reads for such a pittance.

Now, that fortune cookie … technically, it belonged to my friend as I had already opened and eaten my cookie. Half of it was good advice … the generosity part. The perfection part? Well, sometimes that’s just a way to make ourselves crazy, but hey, it’s only a thought in a cellophane-wrapped, folder-over piece of fried dough, right? I have something more on my mind … I’m stalking through the freshly vacated rooms of the convent with men seeking justice in Paradise.

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