Birds of Paradise
A multilayered, beautifully textured novel about family and self, self-indulgence and generosity, against the vivid backdrop of contemporary Miami.
In the tropical paradise that is Miami, Avis and Brian Muir are still haunted by the disappearance of their ineffably beautiful daughter, Felice, who ran away when she was thirteen. Now, after five years of modeling tattoos,...more
A cookie, Avis told her children, is a soul.
Oh, please! *rolls eyes* Spare me this kind of pseudo-philosophical garbage. The above is the opening sentence of the novel. As soon as I read it I heaved a big sigh. I could tell what kind of book this was going to be.
We've got a family of four: Avis, Brian and their two children Stanley and Felice. Stanley is mainly ignored throughout the novel, getting only one P.O.V. chapter near th ...more
There are lush foodie descriptions, of the cakes and pastries baked by the girl's wealthy mother and equally, of the organic foods sold and prepared by the proletarian (also by choice) bro ...more
I personally read as a form of escapism. My book club elected to read this book, though, so I dug in eagerly, hoping to discover a gem I would learn to love. Although I connected with the characters individually and in their interactions with one another, I was left feeling as though all of them were being sheltered, shrouded, and treated as incomplete entitie ...more
The story is straightforward. In the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina's landfall in Miami, Avis, an artisan baker, is forced to confront her role in her daughter's disappearance four years ago. The novels POVs rotate between Avis, her attorney husband, and her daughter, ...more
The first half of the book feels like a mashup of two movies: "Ordinary People" (devastated parents) and "Mostly Martha" (amazing chef). The second half of the ...more
The story shifts point of ...more
The novel takes place in sprawling, muggy Miami, and hovers around the lives of members of a quietly unhappy family: mot ...more
This story involves the four members of a family, each chapter is viewed from a different family member’s perspective. Avis Muir is a brilliant pastry chef, Brian Muir a corporate real estate attorney. Their son, Stanley, is the proprietor of a trendy food market. Their
beautiful daughter, Felice, is missing. A runaway at 13, Felice has spent five years modeling tattoos, sk ...more
"Birds of Paradise" is absolutely heart-rending, literary, and downright lyrical in its portrayal of Felice, her family, the ethnic communities of Miami, FL, the social behavior of emotionally immature teenage girls, the fragility of relationship w ...more
The book tells the story of a family's heartbreak over the seemingly causeless runaway of their 14 year old daughter. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, and gives us insight into how each family member deals with that heartbreak individually, from the mother, father, brother – and the runaway herself.
Through much of the book, I was left wondering what ex ...more
My two biggest problems--the reasons I couldn't fully embrace this novel--are:
1) Solange, the Haitian neighbor who knows herbs and, thoug ...more
Birds of Paradise
Reviewed by Martha Toll
Diana Abu-Jaber’s latest novel pivots around a missing teenager whose long absence is a continuing grief for her family. After multiple attempts at running away, Felice Muir finally succeeds when she is thirteen. The novel opens five years later. Although Felice’s parents know she lives near them in Miami, they have had only the barest contact with her over this extended period. In Bi ...more
I liked this book. I think the family was idiotic (if your child is running away you take them to a specialist, you take them to a mental hospital, god, something!) but I loved the descriptions of Miami, of the different cultures, even of the mother's baking. I thought the over-descriptions of the the dad's job was so purposeful and gave the reader a good sense of who he was. The broth ...more
The Muir family is living a seemingly picture-perfect middle-class life. They have a lovely home, great jobs and beautiful children. Look closer and they're a mess.. Each member of the family lives in isolation. They hold in their pain and they fear expressing both their problems and their desires.
The parents, Avis and Brian have long stopped communicati ...more
The setting is Florida and the book is told in chapters with a different family member the center of each chapter. Felice is the thirteen year old runaway who is the main character in the s ...more
The premise: mysterious Felice runs away from home at 13 and spends, at the time of the telling, 5 years on the streets. Perspective shifts from hers to her parents, trying to piece together why Fel ...more
Then about a third of the way in, I was hooked. I couldn't wait to return to the story. The characters grew on me, so much so that I felt like I knew them, understood them. I related to their experiences.
Was it my imagination, or did the writing style become fuller, juicier as the ...more
"I thought she was more interested in cake," Avis says, she tilts her narrow shoulders, veers around him to stack dishes in the sink.”