Toni Morrison’s Paradise (1998)
“They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here. They are seventeen miles from a town which has ninety miles between it and any other. Hiding places will be plentiful in the Convent, but there is time and the day has just begun.”
In the first few pages of the novel, readers move through the old house in the tracks of the men. But, then, readers shuffle to the side and inhabit the stories of the women, one after the next.
Although it’s impossible to forget the story’s predatory launch, the women’s stories are told with such fervor that my expectations that the novel would end in a massacre shifted; so many of these women had already escaped bloody and sorrowful situations once, to end up together in this old house, that I began to believe that survival was still on the table.
When the townfolk rage about the conflict between tradition and innovation and when the women relive aspects of their painful pasts, this is a challenging story; there is also humour (especially in the scenes between Mavis and Gigi) and comfort (whenever another woman arrives and is adopted into the fold).