Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #6 - Paradise by Toni Morrison

For September's Oprah Book Club challenge, I have chosen Paradise, by Toni Morrison....

Paradise by Toni Morrison. 1997, Alfred A. Knopf. 318 pages.

“They kill the white girl first”. Another great first line, from a compelling book by one of the premier authors of our time, Toni Morrison. I listened to this book, and wished I had chosen the hard copy instead, because I often felt the need to go back and re-read pages. This book can be rather confusing, and not being able to page back makes it even more so.

This is the story of a small Oklahoma town called Ruby, formed in 1950 and inhabited by mostly-African Americans. The founders intended the town to be free of the prejudices and hatred encountered in other parts of the world, and the little town was, indeed paradise, at least for a time.

People being people, of course, Ruby could not be paradise forever. The base, animalistic tendencies of human beings eventually destroyed what the founding fathers of Ruby built, culminating in a bloody 1976 event that begins and ends the book.

As troubles begin to creep into Ruby, the good people of Ruby look for reasons. They focus on the people who are “different” from themselves – a group of down and out women of various colors and ages who, because of their circumstances, live together in an old convent at the edge of town. These women provide support and sustenance to each other, gently caring for the older women and bolstering those who have been beaten down by people and troubles.

This is a book about tolerance and intolerance. Even the African-Americans are intolerant of those not of the same blood (color) as themselves. The book is non-linear – it veers wildly – starting with the ending and moving back and forth through time. Again, I strongly recommend that you read, rather than listen to, the book for this very reason.

I found the ending rather ambiguous, probably by the author’s design. It’s not an easy book to read, but it will definitely keep your interest and make you think.

Out of 5 stars, I give Paradise…..

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