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Paradise (Toni Morrison Trilogy #3)

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  17,560 Ratings  ·  694 Reviews
"They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time." So begins this visionary work from a storyteller. Toni Morrison's first novel since she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Paradise opens with a horrifying scene of mass violence and chronicles its genesis in an all-black small town in rural Oklahoma. Founded by the descendants of freed sla ...more
Paperback, First Plume Printing (Oprah's Book Club), 318 pages
Published April 1st 1999 by Plume (Penguin Books Ltd) (first published 1997)
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Fawkes Phoenix Im having trouble keeping the convent girls straight but i remember there were 5 total long term residents right? Gigi/Grace, Mavis, Seneca,…moreIm having trouble keeping the convent girls straight but i remember there were 5 total long term residents right? Gigi/Grace, Mavis, Seneca, Palla/Divine and Connie. The Mother/Nun was there but passed away. So maybe the white woman was a new guest, maybe she was part of the family that froze in the blizzard? (less)
The Color Purple by Alice WalkerTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm XBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison
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33rd out of 604 books — 768 voters
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Best Feminist Fiction
58th out of 1,022 books — 2,189 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 17, 2009 brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to brian by: mindy, joseph
#4. paradise. ah… paradise. a profound frustration. here we have the best and worst of toni morrison. check the story: nine families trek across the west to create an all-black town in oklahoma divorced from mainstream american society. cut off from:

The congregation rippled with laughter.
They laughed, merrily louder, shaking their heads.
They roared with laughter.
“Picture shows, filthy music.” He continued with fingers from his left hand. “Wickedness in the str
Jul 25, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why is it that so often in life the very thing you’re trying to avoid becomes you? Why do the oppressed become the oppressor? Why do the abused become the abuser? Why do those who demand openness and equality become insular and elitist? Why does the love that we strive so hard to obtain turn into a protective curse when we attempt to contain it vs. allowing its empathy and compassion to extend to all? These open-ended questions are only the tip of the iceberg in Toni Morrison’s "Paradise". It is ...more
Nov 24, 2010 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
I'll confess that, though I'm an adoring Morrison fan, I've avoided three novels (this one, Jazz, Tar Baby) because of the less-than-stellar things I've heard about them. (Not to mention I found Love tedious.) Well, I went in as a skeptic and I came out a believer.

The first sentence, quoted again and again here on GR, really deserves another show: "They shot the white girl first." It's so perfect, so emblematic of Morrison's ability to write both elegant, haunting, ornate sentences, and--just as
Aug 09, 2014 Alisha rated it really liked it
Shelves: afro-lit
I swear, it's the most fulfilling when you read an author and you have ambiguous feelings towards them and their writing. But being an unbiased, fair, desperately enthusiastic reader; you come back to give it a second try and it will be with that second book that you make your definitive judgement towards the author — either you like them or don't. You respect their writing and just can't get down with it or you think their writing is crap.

I thought I didn't like Morrison. I respected her as I c
Feb 17, 2016 ☕Laura rated it it was amazing
I really, really loved this book. I have never read Morrison before and now I'm wondering what took me so long. I think her writing is just exquisite. This was not an easy book to read, and I am left pondering many things, but where ambiguity usually leaves me feeling dissatisfied, with this book it somehow feels "right", like I am meant to be thinking about this book long after I have finished it.
Why did I read this book before reading Beloved and Jazz when it is supposed to complete the trilogy? I'm bummed by that. I couldn't help it, I found the book on my shelf and decided to read it along with The Bluest Eye. Then there I was, reading it and thinking, why was this book not titled, “Beware the Furrow of His Brow,” or “Furrow of His brow,” or, “The Oven?” I won’t spoil it, you will have to read it to see why I say that and you'll probably agree with me (I did hear though, that Toni Mo ...more
This is one of those books that is probably a masterpiece, but to which I could not find the right access.
They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.
These first two sentences are - I think - a strong entry into a novel. Together with the blurb they have convinced me to buy the book. The crime is described in the first chapter, and the rest deals not so much with the question who committed it, but why. Why did the nine men from the small town of Ruby decide to savag
Victoria Plummer
Sep 04, 2013 Victoria Plummer rated it it was amazing
I've never been able to pinpoint the reason I love this book.

After three reads, endless highlights, dog-eared pages, and notes in the margins I've found peace with Ruby and its inhabitants.

Many think this book failed because Morrison tried to insert too many questions, themes, and allegory into it, but I think that's where it shines. Morrison's depth is downright impressive in her ability to weave such weighted layers in this novel.

On my first read I came out with a tenuous understanding of wha
Jun 23, 2009 Lavonne rated it it was ok
I didn't write my review of this right away, as I was still trying to decide exactly how I felt about this book. It was very difficult to read and about half way through, I went online to read other readers' takes on it.

Either people loved it or they hated it. If they loved it, they had read it two or three times and read/watched numerous interviews with the author as she explained her themes, just so they could understand it. I am willing to explore deeper meanings in a book, but it has to be
Oct 02, 2007 Cheryl rated it liked it
I picked this book up at a Friends of the Library sale and didn't give it much thought... It was a mild read, somewhat sad, somewhat rich.
I actually finished the book a week ago and the last chapter has got me still milling over whether I think it's a masterpiece or a flop. Any book that still has me thinking a week later should probably get more than 3 stars.. I might just re-read that last chapter and see if I get it this time.
Neal Adolph
I started reading this book because it is Black History Month and I thought it was appropriate to finally, after years of good intention, mark it in some way with my reading. Conveniently, I've been wanting to read something by Toni Morrison, and have often lifted her books from my shelf, examined the cover and read the back, but they've always been put back. I was never brave enough. The weight of reputation around her persona - and around some of her books - is heavy. I went with Paradise for ...more
Paul Sheckarski
I don't think I can say anything intelligent about this novel without a stornger background in women's & Black lit. There are many stylistic choices which gave me pause, whose purpose may be hidden to me by my capital-p privilege. I have foremost in mind the constant revision of established narrative, where we revisit the past from a new perspective and change, cloud, clarify our perception of particular events. Not to say that women's lit is the only tradition to capitalize on multiple poin ...more
May 16, 2012 Luke rated it really liked it
This is the fifth of Morrison's books that I've read, and like all the others, it is beautiful. I find it hard to rate Morrison's work in the 5-star system, because in comparison to most books by other authors, Morrison would almost always deserve 5. When I compare her books to each other, I can't go as high as a 5 for most of them because I don't feel they are quite as good (perfect) as Beloved.

Paradise is a dystopian novel. It may not seem like it at first--it doesn't transport us into some d
Will B
Dec 03, 2012 Will B rated it it was ok
This book was selected by one of my professors, an expert in African American literature who has published a couple of books of his own, for a 400-level college lit class.

On the first day that we started this book, he walked in, sat it down on the table in front of him, and said, "I hadn't read this book in a while. I couldn't remember if I liked it or not. I don't think I do."

A week later, I knew I didn't.

Morrison has long been lauded for her evocative lyricism, but here more so than in her o
Apr 29, 2016 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-americas
Paradise starts with a violent end to its story. Women living in a convent are being shot by men and, as readers, we have no idea who anyone is or why this atrocity is happening. Jumping back in time, author Toni Morrison dedicates each chapter to the story of a woman and we slowly begin to understand the masculine pride, social fragmentation and perversion of religious belief that will lead to tragedy. Morrison imagined a nucleus of nine black families who, more than a hundred years ago, set ou ...more
Jun 29, 2008 Kelly rated it liked it
This book has THE BEST opening chapter I have ever read. I HATED the ending. I was mad at Morrison who refused to provide answers to the ending. Basically, she said if the reader doesn't get it then the reader doesn't deserve to be helped/given the answers.
Sentimental Surrealist
So, here I arrive at the later Morrison. Since my introduction to the arts was through rock music, which has adopted Neil Young's "better to burn out than to fade away" dictum as gospel, I had it in my head that artists were supposed to get worse with age, that they were supposed to have this big creative burst at the beginning of their professional career and then lose it all. This ironically doesn't apply to Young himself, who isn't what he used to be but will toss a gem like Ragged Glory or, ...more
Aug 18, 2014 Downward rated it really liked it
Toni Morrison sticks to her gameplan: she constructs an awful tragedy and then uses various social lenses through which she explains the events leading up to that tragedy. For the most part, it works. Each chapter is constructed through concentration on a single character, allowing the reader to slowly collect the information that leads to the massacre that opens the novel. In building the narrative this way, it gives us connective tissue to everyone in town and allows us to, when the tragedy st ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 06, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
Reading a novel by Toni Morrison is an act of faith. She demands much from her language and her readers, but when that faith is rewarded, the effect is stunning.

In "Paradise," her first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, she has produced a story sure to generate volumes of feminist appraisal. This novel doesn't reach the emotional spikes of her best early work, but in a way it is more articulate than her rich, exhausting "Beloved" (1987). Oprah Winfrey has already tapped
Jun 10, 2011 Anna rated it it was amazing
Paradise is a masterpiece by Toni Morrison, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. I first became acquainted with Morrison, a literary giant, when I read her first novel, The Bluest Eye many years ago. Her novels are difficult to read because of her lyrical prose, her symbolism, use of figurative language and involved plotting. Paradise is no different. When I first began to read the novel, I found it difficult to follow the story line. It begins with a violent act in the present d ...more
Jun 04, 2010 sheena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-japan
There is a special hell for black people who only give Toni Morrison three stars. Please don't send me there.

Paradise is the story of black God-fearing utopia (nah, not an oxymoron!). Ruby, the town where the story is set, prides itself on its "absence of the unsaved, the unworthy and the strange." The townspeople are preoccupied with pleasing the Lord and fighting the "threat of white immigrants". Something has to happen, so not far off lurk ex-pat heathens who (not needing a man, OR God!!) put
Steff El Madawi
Nov 16, 2013 Steff El Madawi rated it it was amazing
I was completely absorbed in this book. I found myself fathoming out potential plot holes and contemplating genetic threads even when I stepped away from it, only to find that, if I read hard and persevered, the holes all closed up.

The characters were deep and tangible, even the ones that were difficult to like. Admittedly, I had to reread sections to hold the relationships and kinships straight, but the payoff for doing so was always satisfying.

The shifting viewpoints from chapter to chapter,
Aug 12, 2012 Ryan added it
Non-linear and filled with about a million different characters (many with multiple names) don't expect Paradise to be a casual, Sunday afternoon read. About 60% of the way through I gave in and just let myself experience the novel without necessarily having to completely make sense of it. It made it somewhat easier to read, but also frustrating, because I know there is a lot of rich complexity I just didn't pick up on. Definitely a book that warrants multiple readings, I think. And maybe a flow ...more
Nimue Brown
Aug 19, 2014 Nimue Brown rated it really liked it
Strange, beautiful, haunting, challenging, ambiguous - all qualities I really appreciate in a book. I first read this in my early twenties, and struggled with it, being a white English Pagan girl I had few points of reference for understanding Black Christian America in the first half of the twentieth century. I knew less about race and gender politics, my world was simpler, and this book confused me. Re-reading it older, wiser, bruised, saddened, inspired and generally knocked about by the worl ...more
Aug 12, 2007 Shayla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's funny, I've tried to get many of my friends to read this book and they all start and then stop, while I've read it twice (I rarely read books more than once, even if I really like them).

I just loved the complexity of this non-linear book. Each chapter is devoted to the main women in the novel, including the town itself, Ruby. Ruby is an all-black town in OK, founded by freed slaves. This is a town that prides itself on its history and on its racial purity among other things. It is these bel
Fatima Alammar
Nov 22, 2015 Fatima Alammar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
فردوس موريسون هو عن غياب "الفردوس". عن عدم الإيمان به، عن التشكيك في إمكانية وجوده. الفردوس يوجد في مخيلة من يقع عليهم الظلم والاضطهاد، وعندما يقتربون من بناء الفردوس (في الرواية هي بلدة روبي) سرعان ما يتبدد الوهم، ويتورطون في الظلم والاضطهاد.

رواية مُرهقة. وأنا لا أعني حزينة، ومحتشدة بالتفاصيل الكثيرة والحكايات الصغيرة، تتطلّب تركيزاً حادا، مربكة، ومحيّرة، وسوداوية، بل أعني كلّ ذلك.
Aug 09, 2015 Dominique rated it it was amazing
The beginning of the "Divine" chapter has undoubtedly changed my entire life.
Larry Riordan
Apr 17, 2016 Larry Riordan rated it really liked it
While not as good as Beloved, all of Toni Morrison's skills as an author are on display. Devoid of Beloved's supernatural elements and highly convincing portrayal's of female subjectivity, it is the males that come off as more realistic in this novel, particular in their interior monologues The symbols: a convent, "New Haven," ect. are thematically strong, plot-related, and extremely thought-provoking. The opening scene is somewhat sensational, but what follows is literary prose with some of the ...more
May 20, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it
In Paradise, Morrison presents a multilayered history of a town founded by a few black families and how the systems of oppression for women in this community exist outside of a racial perspective. Race in Paradise is barely a factor. It begins with a racial provocation but never returns to it. Race hangs over the town of Ruby, but non-black people barely enter the narrative at all. Instead, in waves of dreamlike, sometimes magical realist prose, Morrison relates the suffering of black women at t ...more
Jan 06, 2014 Salvatore rated it did not like it
The idea behind this work is great. The execution is a mess. It's really a selection of intertwined stories that build to create a narrative of a people. A warning that certain prejudices are inherit in certain people. That paradise requires a sort of exclusion, sometimes and likely a violent one. That history can't be erased no matter how hard you try - it's what you do with it that matters. The novel here is looking at Winesburg, Ohio and The Years, I'm sure amongst other novels.

Yet Paradise f
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Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."

Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best k
More about Toni Morrison...

Other Books in the Series

Toni Morrison Trilogy (3 books)
  • Beloved
  • Jazz (Toni Morrison Trilogy, #2)

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“Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn - by practice and careful contemplations - the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don't. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest. Couples that enter the sacrament of marriage and are not prepared to go the distance or are not willing to get right with the real love of God cannot thrive. They may cleave together like robins or gulls or anything else that mates for life. But if they eschew this mighty course, at the moment when all are judged for the disposition of their eternal lives, their cleaving won't mean a thing. God bless the pure and holy. Amen.” 409 likes
“Love is divine only and difficult always.” 23 likes
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