Paradise Park
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Paradise Park

3.15 of 5 stars 3.15  ·  rating details  ·  336 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Allegra Goodman has delighted readers with her critically acclaimed collections Total Immersion and The Family Markowitz, and her celebrated first novel, Kaaterskill Falls, which was a national bestseller and a National Book Award finalist.

Abandoned by her folk-dancing partner, Gary, in a Honolulu hotel room, Sharon realizes she could return to Boston—and her estranged fa...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 21st 2009 by Dial Press (first published 2001)
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Tiff
I just finished reading a book, Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman. Paradise Park is this crazy novel about a young woman, Sharon, who gets stranded by a self-centered, overly serious boyfriend in Hawaii. Virtually penniless, with no one to come to her aid, Sharon continues her quest to find love, community and meaning. At first I thought this novel was insane. How could so much happen to this woman? How could she be so scattered? As the story progressed I thought for sure the author was indeed tr...more
Katie
What an entertaining read about a truly dingbatty character. I saw so many reviews of this book where people couldn't get past not liking the main character, but I liked her - or rather, I liked reading about her shenanigans and all her missteps. Who wants to read about perfect people? She was just so exasperating, spastic, self-centered, and impulsive, that it was just constantly interesting. Nobody in real life has so many bizarre encounters and knows so many different kinds of people in diffe...more
Taylor
I really liked this book, and, honestly, I'm still sort of surprised about that. Not because it wasn't well-written, because it was, but because a) it's about a spiritual quest, which I usually think is pretty lame and b) the narrator/protagonist is a total hippie. However, in addition to being a hippie, Sharon is also kind of hilarious and endearing. In spite of myself I found that I wanted things to turn out okay for her, and her refusal to be discouraged about anything for too long and her pe...more
Mimi
Oy Sharon Spielgelman! There were times when your soul-searching was enough to drive anyone nuts - and yet, so intriguing were your misadventures and so radiant was your "goldene neshama" (golden soul) that your ultimate destiny was an important element of my own existence for 360 pages.

Allegra Goodman is a wonderfully intelligent, witty and sometimes poetic writer. ...And although there were times when the protagonist, Sharon, annoyed me, I never wanted to dismiss her or stop reading this book....more
Susan
Allegra Goodman has given us a journey of discovery through the empty head of one of the ditziest characters I've ever met. Her voice never fails to sound just like a young woman sharing her story over a drink, you know? The style is conversational and you are never quite sure where Sharon is headed with her narrative, neither is she. Just when you think she is going to find her place, she abruptly gets pushed farther on her journey and has to find her bearings all over again.

Sharon does ultimat...more
Susan
I picked up this book because I liked the author's novel "The Cookbook Collector", but in the end, I couldn't wait to finish this one...not because I wanted to see how it would end, but just because I wanted it to be over. We stay with the protagonist Sharon from age 20 into her 40s as she progresses from her "wild child" days to a woman on a spiritual quest...By the end I found myself wishing that the author had just written a non-fiction text on comparative religions as that seemed to be the f...more
Claire
This book is in the vein of Girls with a self-absorbed, central female character who finds it hard to stick to whatever she is doing - although she perseveres in a personal and spiritual quest.

The book has a lot about religion and spirituality - not my thing at all, but parts are quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, the book thinks it's more profound than it really is, the same themes and plots appear in future Goodman books (boring), and its plotting re: violence against women, done for dramatic pu...more
Sarabeth
This book was neutral... Not particularly deep, but I liked the meandering quality of the writing. Sometimes it got slow, but overall I was interested in the narrator enough to stick through it. I really felt like she was this quirky woman. So often a narrator feels a little bland, but Sharon was incredibly opinionated and the book was saturated with her POV. The way she explained her mental reasoning (which was usually like- 'and then that got old, so I did something else...' or 'my boyfriend a...more
Rachel
This book was very different from my favorites by this author- Kaaterskill Falls and Intuition. First of all, it was told in the first person rather than the third. The protagonist's life was literally divided into the chapters of the books, whereas the community of protagonists in the other stories tended to wash over you like waves. As a writer, this story seemed easier to tell because the prose style was less complex. But the narrator was also less relaible- obviously- because she was opinion...more
Kate
Had to put this on my "can't finish" shelf. I got really tired of Sharon, the main character. She jumps into things wholeheartedly, but can't stick with them for long enough to know how they will turn out. I realize this may change by the end of the book, but I lost interest in Sharon's story. It reminds me too much of growing up with my mother. In fact, Sharon is JUST LIKE my mother. She is literally the same age, in the same time period. My mom was a single mother and not such a spiritual seek...more
Myrnagreenfield
Paradise Park is a coming of age story about enjoyably ditzy Sharon Spiegelman. She stumbles through a couple of decades without any clear dreams or goals, embracing folk dancing, music, and nature before she stumbles onto religion. She explores a variety of spiritual realms before discovering her Jewish faith.

At times, I was hard to believe she could be so naive and heedless of anyone else's feelings, but her self-deprecating humor made this first person narrative enjoyable.

The novel lacks str...more
Ruth
One thing being sick is good for: reading a lot. Well, as long as you're not TOO sick.

This novel begins in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the 1960s, moves to the U.S. West Coast, hops to Hawaii & lodges there for quite a few years/chapters, migrates to Bellevue, Washington, then makes its way back to the East Coast, with the final chapter leading us back to an Israeli folk dance at MIT in Cambridge. The sense of place is stellar--not just apt descriptions of landscapes but intuitions of the so...more
Bonnie
The timing of this book being similar to my own life was a lot of what appealed to me. The narrator starts as a wayward college student in the late 60's. Her quest for truth and spirituality, as well as her erratic nature, also resonated with my experiences. About a fourth of the way into it, I considered quitting it, because her personality got on my nerves - she was so egotistical, while espousing spiritual goals. Hmmm, could that also be similar to my own story? She like the high of religious...more
Barbara
I appreciated this book, more than I loved it. It's so smartly written, all the detail really putting you in the places and situations being presented.

I went into it being interested in the main character's (Sharon) spiritual journey, and found it totally believable and sometimes laugh out loud hilarious for that reason. But Sharon annoyed me because I was so frustrated with her at times - which to me means she was, again, so believalbe and such a strong character. But, I guess I didn't absolut...more
Nancy
Dec 20, 2011 Nancy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: women
Recommended to Nancy by: daughter, HEATHER
I loved the writing in the first person. It made me feel more of a part of the main character's life and experiences. Although at first I felt that the character of Sharon was shallow and not very "fleshed-out,'' I came to admire the author's consistency in presenting this character as a real person ...full of questions and misgivings about people and life. Having several Jewish friends and a Jewish spouse/children, in my own life, prepared me for the intense discussion of Judaism in the novel....more
Dawna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lynn
I have trouble reading about people who are so non-introspective, which the main character is in this novel. While the portrait of this character is well drawn, she's the sort of person that makes me nuts because she flits from thing to thing, diving in headlong, then oozing away when the thing doesn't answer all of her needs. I've sometimes wished to that I were more adventurous myself, so maybe that's why this behavior ticks me off, but lack of reflection can create havoc in those around you,...more
Sara Cat
I'd read something else by her. Everyone seems to say this is her worst book. It's a solid read, though the pacing is uneven and the first half seems to go so much more slowly than the end. Story of a young seeker, self-absorbed (I don't get why this was a criticism so many people toss out there - I mean, that's the character), who gradually matures.

Nothing particularly interesting, but the life on Oahu is fun to read about. Toward the end, it becomes a story about growing up and growing old and...more
Elyse
Nov 21, 2008 Elyse marked it as partially-read
This one was a hard one to get through because I didn't care for the character much and found my self very annoyed by her. After having talked to one person in my book group who did like the book and the character I was able to see the character through her eyes and wasn't as annoyed. I read word by word until a little bit more than half the book and then I decided to skim the rest because I was having trouble with the character. The book did raise some good discussion. It would be a good book g...more
Jgknobler
In this too-long novel, a twenty year old folk dancer follows her boyfriend to Hawaii, where he promptly dumps her. The daughter of an alcoholic mother and a severe, rejecting father, she is on her own, supporting herself with odd jobs and searching for love and meaning. She is an infuriating young woman, constantly making bad choices, but has an amusing, sprightly openness that carries the novel a long way. This being Allegra Goodman, she eventually finds her way into various Orthodox and Hasid...more
Kirsten
This was a strange book for me - compelling enough to keep me reading on an airplane, but ultimately dissatisfying. I thought the first half - when Sharon is flitting from one thing to another - was fairly enjoyable and mildly funny, but the second half gets bogged down with Judaism (which is nothing against Judaism). I thought Sharon had some reasonable quibbles with Orthodox Judaism which she then brushes aside and completely ignores and that rang false to me. Also, her lack of character and a...more
Stephanie Holcomb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ffiamma
un lungo viaggio alla ricerca di se stessa- è quello che sharon intraprende dopo essere stata abbandonata dal fidanzato alle hawaii. il nutrimento del corpo, ma soprattutto quello dell'anima- nel mondo delle religioni fino al ritorno all'origine ebraica. (non è un bel libro, la traduzione mi sembra un po' sciatta e sicuramente kaaterskill falls è un romanzo di gran lunga migliore. eppure io credo che allegra goodman sia una scrittrice da tener d'occhio)
Zinnia
This book is set in Hawaii & I like how real it (Hawaii) feels in the book.

For all Sharon goes through, though, it doesn't seem like she really changes. Which is maybe the point. Maybe we are who we are no matter what the outward trappings. Even if we'd like to think otherwise.

Or I guess sometimes I would like to think otherwise. But mostly I know I am who I am and that's who I am!
Nicki Relf
I am glad to see others shared my opinion of this book. The writing style is great, I actually didn't hate the main character, but the ending and the implied message that motherhood and marriage would redeem Sharon and give her what had has been searching for just didn't sit well with me. There could have been so much more done with the character! Still, I read other books by this author.
Trena
It took me quite a while to get into this book. I was kind of ready to give up on it, but I finally started caring about the character. By then end, I really enjoyed it. But it was perhaps more work than a book of this stature merits; I don't know that most people will wait so long to start enjoying a book and that's probably a smarter way to allocate your time.
Jennifer
A cute book that tries to be too serious. I read it for our synagogue book club, but didn't make it to the meeting. The narrator/heroine of sorts can annoy you at times, but I understood her indecision as well. Since I read it before I went to visit Kauai, I enjoyed the Hawaiian aspect of it, although this character is mainly on Oahu.
Diane
A hilarious Jewish version of Eat Pray Love. Goodman a much better writer than Gilbert, imho. This one takes place in Hawaii, Jerusalem, Brooklyn and Boston. Ends as well as it begins, unlike EPL which went steadily downhill.
Lisa
I really enjoyed this, although it dragged at times. Goodman's writing is pretty slow anyway, usually in a nice way, and this book seemed slower than some others I've read. On the other hand, that slowness, and the way it just seemed to go on and on, from one thing to the next, fit in so well with the theme of the book that it was OK.

Norma
Not sure why I finished it. I think I was hoping that it might be something I could quote from when waxing metaphysical. But it wasn't and it's just lucky the character ended up as well as she did. It could have gone so wrong so many times. I've known so many people like her. They weren't all as lucky.
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