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I think my story is not something to wrap up with a bow and hand over. Not to you and not to anyone.
If you’ve read Diana Abu-Jaber in the past then you’re anticipating Birds of Paradise like the rest of us who are already fans. If you haven’t read her before then I envy you; you’re about to discover your next favorite author.
Well, in September anyway (I got an Advanced Readers Copy at BEA, remember?).
Abu-Jaber uses imagery like a poet. She puts phrases together that are as delicious as the food she describes. She creates with words as few writers can, making you smell the backyard foliage, feel the clammy air on your skin, nestle inside the setting.
It gets so hot out there, the sun melting the thick bright air into orange honey, she just wants to curl up and sleep out her life.
For some authors, a gift for lyricism means the story is lacking. With Birds of Paradise, Abu-Jaber gives us a compelling story in the Muirs, a family living in the “aftermath” of a crisis - daughter Felice ran out when she was thirteen years old. But Felice refuses to disappear completely, which means that even years later the crisis is ongoing, and the degree of pain her family feels depends on the week. Birds of Paradise reopens old wounds, examines mid-life struggles, and invites us to watch as the Muirs address wrongs both real and imagined.
Abu-Jaber presents her character's doubts, dubious choices, and self-defeating behavior without judgement. It makes them all the more real, and sympathetic, even when their choices drive you crazy. Abu-Jaber's deft touch with their shortcomings gives the Muir's struggles for grace a humanity and beauty that you don't often find in fiction.
I loved this book.