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Paradise

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  22,755 ratings  ·  1,085 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
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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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Melissa Russoniello I actually couldn't get through it the first time I read it. I put it down and then came back to it a couple years later. If you can't finish it, set …moreI actually couldn't get through it the first time I read it. I put it down and then came back to it a couple years later. If you can't finish it, set it aside and move on. Maybe put it back on the bookshelf for another time.
I find Morrison generally difficult but extremely rewarding to read. The second attempt clicked for me and I made it to the end and then LOVED it.
I agree with Nyla, though. If you don't like it; you don't like it. There are plenty of popular authors and books out there that I just don't feel the same way about. Morrison is amazingly talented and smart. Her messages resonate with different people at different times in our lives. I certainly haven't liked all her books, but I am probably not her target audience in those cases.(less)

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Violet wells
Oct 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Sometimes you have to hold up your hands as a reader and admit maybe you didn’t do a book justice. I found Paradise really difficult to follow. Mainly this is due to there being no central character. The central character instead is a town called Ruby where only blacks live and are free of white legislation and a nearby building known as the convent. The awfulness of men and magical prowess of women is its theme. Well not quite but the divisions drawn here are not between blacks and whites but b ...more
Rowena
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
" They shoot the white girl first, but the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here. They are 17 miles from a town which has 90 miles between it and any other. Hiding places will be plentiful in the convent, but there is time, and the day has just begun. They are nine. Over twice the number of the women, they are obliged to stampede or kill, and they have the paraphernalia for either requirement--rope, a palm leaf cross, handcuffs, mace, and sunglasses, along with clean, handso ...more
Jean-Luke
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup, I say a little prayer for you--but more on that in a moment. Reading this after reading The Bluest Eye is probably like reading Dubliners and then following it with Finnegans Wake. Well, maybe not quite (I wouldn't know as I haven't read either one), but this one is definitely much denser than The Bluest Eye and has a cast of characters as large as the Bible. It's not something you read with the TV on in the background, or while having a conversat ...more
Tim
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-studies
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
Michael Finocchiaro
This is the most complex book I have read from Toni Morrison. It is the story of a black community called Ruby in rural Oklahoma in the 70s and the reaction to a female commune of sorts called the Convent out on the edge of the town. At issue here is skin-tone, the 8-rock dark black founders and their suspicions towards those with lighter skin. The book starts with describing a massacre and then goes back to paint in the details of the lives of the women and the story of the town. The narration ...more
Alisha
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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Zanna
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Paradise is one of my favourite words… I believe it came first from an ancient word in Farsi that means only a park, which says something about the Iranian idea of a park, perhaps. I think paradise is a place of welcome and peace and love, and in this book, I think that is what the founders of the town Ruby wanted to create, at a safe distance from racism and related violence vertical and horizontal…

But the folks in power are too rigid in defining and seeking to enforce their idea of paradise. T
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John Pistelli
Paradise was not well received upon its publication in 1997—influential critics like Michiko Kakutani, James Wood, and Zoë Heller disparaged it, and even Oprah's audience, instructed to read it for the talk show host's book club, demurred, prompting Oprah to call Morrison to offer the viewers encouragement. One of the studio audience members protested that, confused by the novel's multiple perspectives and non-linear chronology, she was lost on page 19; Oprah asked Morrison what the poor woman w ...more
Cheryl
Aug 15, 2013 rated it really liked 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
Jamie
Apr 26, 2008 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
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Annie
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: magical-realism
They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.

So, famously, begins Toni Morrison's Paradise.

But we never learn who the white girl is. Apparently, Morrison said she started with race, and then erased it by never identifying who the white one is. Does that bother you? she seems to ask implicitly. Does it unsettle you? Do you feel like you can't understand these characters unless you know which ones are white and which ones are black? Are you not sure which ones you're sup
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Ron Charles
Dec 06, 2013 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
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Abbie | ab_reads
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Morrison read and as ever I’m in awe of her rich prose, nuanced characters and multilayered narrative. It’s the 1970s, and follows many characters during their time in the fictional, all-black town of Ruby as well as their lives before, and is a beautiful blend of classic storytelling and magic. I loved that aspect of Beloved and Morrison wields her subtle use of magical realism and mysticism just as artfully in Paradise.
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The opening line is so powerful, setting up the shocking events to
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☕Laura
Jan 23, 2016 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.
Matt
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 sav
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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
Jan
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From very, very many perspectives, Toni Morrison in her novel ‘Paradise’ makes a sort of reconstruction of the social motives and religious drives of inhabitants of Ruby which have led to an act of violence described at the start of the novel. She does that eloquently, and somewhat mysterious en poetical. She demands quite some concentration from her readers, and she doesn’t support the reader very much in seeking the connections between the fragmented narrative. And the reader needs a ‘wide spa ...more
Book-Bosomed  blog
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While my first attempt at reviewing this title, a task I’m not sure anyone can do justice to, this is not my first reading of the novel. That was many moons ago back in graduate school. Fast forward two decades later and I’m now teaching it to my oldest. I’ve been looking forward to days like this—introducing a deeply layered, complex, literary juicy piece and letting those critical thinking, analytical wheels in the mind begin to turn. If you’ve also never read this, then hopefully I’ll inspire ...more
Victoria Plummer
Sep 29, 2011 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
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Shayla
May 03, 2007 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
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Jenn "JR"
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: former language majors
My experience with Toni Morrison books has not always been easy - I find her style difficult to understand and enjoy. It's like being abandoned into the middle of a busy train station in a foreign city without any understanding of the language or your destination, and suddenly being privy to the thoughts of all those people swirling around you.

I put this book down several times since the first time I started it - and even read 3 or 4 books in between. When I finally got to the last 100 pages -
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Tanya
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up after Morrison's recent passing—it seemed appropriate to bid her farewell in my own way by finishing her Dantesque trilogy: After Beloved 's Hell and Jazz 's Purgatory, we reach the conclusion in Paradise. Taking place in Ruby, a self-reliant, neighborly, all-black farming community in Oklahoma, you might quickly draw the conclusion that the title refers to the town itself... but if you're familiar with Morrison's work, you should know better than to to take the title at f ...more
Lavonne
Jun 23, 2009 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
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Dominique
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The beginning of the "Divine" chapter has undoubtedly changed my entire life.
Joseph Sciuto
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Paradise," by the great Toni Morrison was at times quite frustrating to read... The sudden changing, narrative at times made it difficult to follow... And yet at other times the writing is so sublime and hypnotic that it left me speechless. The last fifty pages are a clinic in what it takes to be a great writer.

Steep in African-American history, mysticism, and religious beliefs, it is a novel of breathtaking scope and importance. The town of "Ruby" founded by nine black families escaping the pre
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Paul Sheckarski
I don't think I can say anything intelligent about this novel without a stronger 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 points o ...more
Lara Maynard
It was nice to hear her voice - both Morrison's actual reading voice and her literary one - and I'd like to revisit this title in print form.

There are some other Toni Morrison books that I've not yet read that I want to get to.... But not too quickly. Since she passed away last summer, we know that there are no new Toni Morrison novels coming - unless there are some manuscripts squirreled away, yet to be released or discovered. So I'm trying not to rush through the rest of her work, but to spac
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Chad
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Staggering, epic, layered, and incredibly engrossing. Nobody tells a story quite like Toni Morrison.

Paradise, Morrison's first novel post-Nobel is a bit of a departure from her earlier output. Most noticeably, the breadth and scope of the story are among the most ambitious and complex of her career up to this point. The town of Ruby, Oklahoma and all its many inhabitants are the focus of this story and their relationship-turned-violent conflict with the women of the mysterious Convent, located s
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Will B
Dec 02, 2012 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
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Jennifer
I'm not giving this book any stars because, to be honest, I don't really understand what I just read! There were moments of beauty in this book -- pearls of exquisite writing -- but I just could not follow the story line let alone make sense of the greater meaning. I'll be discussing this with some friends who I hope can enlighten me!
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Overdue Podcast: Ep 402 - Paradise, by Toni Morrison 1 32 Feb 24, 2020 05:55AM  
Goodreads Librari...: please correct page count - Paradise 3 12 Aug 09, 2019 06:23AM  
Goodreads Librari...: book synopsis is actually a used-book sales listing? 2 202 Apr 06, 2017 05:33PM  
Black Coffee: Paradise by Toni Morrison 8 69 Dec 22, 2015 05:08AM  
Confused about ending 4 136 Aug 30, 2014 12:43AM  

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Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford) was 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
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