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Cover for The Language of Paradise

The Language of Paradise

A Novel

Barbara Klein Moss


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MP3 CD (8/25/2015)


Set in nineteenth-century New England, this exquisite novel tests a woman’s love against her husband’s utopian quest.

Sophy Hedge, the artistic daughter of the town's minister, falls in love with Gideon Birdsall, a driven theology student assisting her father with a Hebrew lexicon. Sophy is drawn to Gideon's intellect, passion, and spiritual nature, while Gideon glimpses in her a free soul unbound by convention. Yet Gideon's restlessness after they wed worries Sophy, and she finds his friendship with Leander Solloway, the charismatic new schoolmaster, a cause for anxiety. As the men immerse themselves in Gideon’s mystical theories, Sophy translates her fears into secret paintings.

When Sophy becomes pregnant, Gideon and Leander construct a faux Eden in a greenhouse as part of a daring experiment to discover the language of paradise—the tongue Adam spoke when he named the creatures of the earth. Sophy must decide whether to live and paint in the world her husband has made or escape to save her child and herself.

Addressing the timeless issues of faith, art, and the elusive dream of perfection, Barbara Klein Moss has captured the fragility of human longing.

Praise For The Language of Paradise: A Novel

Beautifully written…an ambitious debut.
— Samantha Nelson - A.V. Club

— Publishers Weekly

Barbara Klein Moss inhabits the hearts and minds of her characters with such empathy that it’s hard not to feel that she witnessed their complicated lives firsthand. I am full of admiration for the way in which The Language of Paradise brings to life the struggles of faith and family. An utterly absorbing novel.

— Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Language of Paradise quickly carves its own stunningly unique niche in the realm of historical fiction. The indelibly drawn characters think with their hearts, love with their minds as they navigate their faith and their passions. Moss’s debut novel is unconventional in all the right ways.

— Kimberly Elkins, author of What Is Visible

Compelling, powerful, lit by art and language, this novel of ideas embodies in the struggles of a passionate family a great intellectual and spiritual conflict. And what a family this is! Moss's brilliantly realized characters will stay with me for a long time.
— Andrea Barrett, author of Archangel and Ship Fever

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393057133, 416pp.

Publication Date: April 6, 2015

About the Author

Barbara Klein Moss is the author of the story collection Little Edens. Her fiction has appeared in a number of journals including the Missouri Review and the Georgia Review, and in Best American Short Stories. She has received fellowships from MacDowell, Bread Loaf, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Annapolis, Maryland.