Children of Paradise
By Fred D'Aguiar
HarperTorch, Hardcover, 9780062277329, 363pp.
Publication Date: February 2014
List Price: $25.99*
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Based on the terrible truths of Jonestown, Jim Jones's utopian commune in Guyana, Children of Paradise is a beautifully imagined novel that interweaves history and fiction to portray a mother and daughter's escape from the rule of a religious madman.
Joyce and her young daughter, Trina, have followed a charismatic preacher from California to the wilds of Guyana, where a thousand congregants have cleared a swath of dense jungle and built a utopian society based on a rigid order guarded over by armed men and teenage "prefects." Each day ends with sermons that demonstrate the preacher's capricious violence and his utmost hostility toward even a whisper of skepticism. But try as the preacher may to block out the world, the commune's seclusion is being breached, first by tribal elders complaining of polluted river water downstream, then by an invisible presence that has helped a young boy to disappear, and finally with rumors of the imminent arrival of a congressional delegation on a fact-finding mission.
As the camp begins rehearsing an endgame of mass suicide, Joyce and Trina attempt a daring escape, aided by a local boat captain and the most unlikely of prisoners--the extraordinary Adam, the commune's caged gorilla.
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 the liberating power of storytelling.