Cover image for Paradise park : a novel
Paradise park : a novel
Goodman, Allegra.
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Publication Information:
New York : Dial Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
360 pages ; 25 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Brilliant, fresh, funny, and wise, Allegra Goodman has delighted readers with her short stories inThe New Yorkerand her critically acclaimed collectionsTotal ImmersionandThe Family Markowitz. Her celebrated first novel,Kaaterskill Falls, was a national bestseller and a National Book Award finalist. The novel, wrote Michiko Kakutani inThe New York Times, "ratifies the achievement of the author's short stories, even as it announces the debut of a gifted novelist." Now, inParadise Park, Goodman introduces one of the most endearing, exasperating, and indomitable heroines in modern literature: Sharon Spiegelman. Abandoned by her folk-dancing partner, Gary, in a Honolulu hotel room, Sharon realizes she could return to Boston--and her estranged family--or listen to that little voice inside herself. The voice that asks: "How come Gary got to pursue his causes, while all I got to pursue was him?" Thus, with an open heart, a soul on fire, and her meager possessions (a guitar, two Indian gauze skirts, a macrame bikini, and her grandfather's silver watch) Sharon begins her own spiritual quest: living with the red-footed boobies, embracing the Edenic rain forests of Molokai, seeking enlightenment (with and without men) at the Greater Love Salvation Church, the Consciousness Meditation Center, a couples workshop in Waikiki, the Torah-Or Institute in Jerusalem, and in Professor Friedell's University of Hawaii course on world religions. Ever the optimist, Sharon is sure each time that she has struck it rich "spiritually speaking"-- until she comes up empty. Then, in a karmic convergence of events, Sharon starts on the path home to Judaism. Still, even as she embraces her tradition, Sharon's irrepressible self tugs at her sleeve. Especially when she meets Mikhail, falls truly in love at last, and discovers what even she could not imagine--her destiny.

Author Notes

Allegra Goodman lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(Publisher Provided) Allegra Goodman was born in Brooklyn New York in 1967, but grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. She received a bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1989 and a PhD in English literature from Stanford University in 1997. Her first story, Variant Text, was accepted by Commentary magazine in 1985. While at Harvard University, she continued to publish short stories in Commentary and her first book, a collection of stories, was published the day she graduated. She wrote her second book, The Family Markowitz, while at Stanford University. Her other works include Intuition, Kaaterskill Falls, Paradise Park, and The Other Side of the Island. She teaches a writing workshop in the graduate program in Creative Writing at Boston University.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Sharon Spiegelman, abandoned in Honolulu by an erstwhile boyfriend, asks one of the best questions in a novel this year: "How come Gary got to pursue his causes while all I got to pursue was him?" Thus begins Sharon's quest for practically everything--a man, a home, a life, a cause, and a spiritual understanding of the cosmos. Goodman, author of Kaaterskill Falls (1998), conjures a world rich in detail using language that is both clever and beautifully controlled. Her description of place and character is both exacting and revealing. The result is a book that is a pleasure to read. It is not, however, a book that satisfies. From such a rich and hopeful opening question, Goodman does not develop Spiegelman as a character. Like a snow globe shaken hard, Spiegelman floats around in the events of her life until inertia causes her to settle. A book that covers 20 years and focuses on one major character needs that character to develop. Nevertheless, Goodman is a talented writer, and her book is worth reading. --Neal Wyatt

Publisher's Weekly Review

Goodman's (Kaaterskill Falls) marvelous new novel involves a woman's tragicomic search for spiritual meaning, a journey as physically peripatetic as it is emotionally migratory. As always, the key to enjoying Goodman's fiction is gradual immersion. Her narratives do not feature razzle-dazzle plot twists or melodramatic peaks, just quietly eddying waves of emotions and events that slowly build to a tsunami of insight. When, in 1974, college dropout and folk dancer Sharon Spiegelman follows her lover from Boston to Hawaii, where he runs off with a new girlfriend, she begins a 22-year odyssey distinguished by an earnest (but nave and often foolish) quest for enlightenment. Her first mystical vision of "resting in the palm of God" comes on a remote island where she has joined an environmental group; disillusionment follows. A second vision gleaned while whale watching proves similarly exhilarating, then deflating. On and on Sharon goes, bouncing from one epiphanic experience to another, changing boyfriends, menial jobs and mentors, positive each time that she has solved the puzzle of existence and ascertained her place in the world. But each new ventureDwhether raising marijuana; embracing a Pentecostal Christian sect, then New Age and Buddhists beliefs and practices; dropping acid; re-enrolling in college to major in comparative religions; living with Bialystocker HasidsDfails to give her lasting solace. But Sharon is learning positive truths even as she despairs of finding the answer to her cosmic questions; and her voice, a pitch-perfect mix of irreverent vernacular punctuated by hyperbolic exhilaration, is a comic triumph. Sharon's story is in essence a spiritual picaresque saga, and when she at last finds both true love and a satisfying religious commitment, she must undergo the painful test of reconnecting with her self-absorbed parents, and learn to forgive. Readers will finish the novel feeling that, given faith in the ultimate goodness of life, things can turn out right. Author tour. (Mar. 6) Forecast: Major ad/promo, including sponsorship announcements on NPR, plus a whimsical cover in an eye-catching yellow, will alert readers to Goodman's new novel; the author's golden reputation and the rave reviews this title will draw will do the rest in making this mini paradise-park of a book a well-deserved bestseller. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It all starts with a whale-watching trip: "The sky swung back in liquid gold, the air mixed with the water.... It was a whale, but not just a whale. It was a vision. It was a vision of God." And from that moment on Sharon SpiegelmanDindomitable, exasperating, ever-seeking SharonDis on a spiritual quest. From her first days, abandoned in Honolulu by her boyfriend with only a macram bikini and a guitar to her name, to her conversion at the great Love Salvation Church (it didn't take), her months in a Buddhist temple, and, finally, her return home to Judaism, Sharon asks questions and makes mistakes but never gives up. Because she never quits, neither does the reader; because she cares so much, the reader does, too. Smoothly told with vivid descriptions, living characters, plenty of humor, and great understanding, this novel fills the heart and stretches the mind. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/00.]DYvette Olson, City Univ. Lib., Renton, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Sharon Spiegelman is a folk-dancing, guitar-strumming, wisdom-seeking 20-year-old hippie fleeing social conventions and past connections when she arrives in Hawaii in 1974. For the next 20 years, she searches for her own personal paradise, trying out a series of homes, jobs, men, and religious experiences. She counts red-footed boobies and seeks God in the stars with Rich. She farms illegal crops and joins the Greater Love Salvation Church with Kekui. She sees God in the sounding of a whale with Wayne. She flies to Jerusalem to study Torah with Gary. Sharon enters each new phase of her search for Truth and Love with a completely open heart and an enthusiasm undimmed by disappointment. Ultimately her search takes her back to her roots, and she finds peace in the embrace of Mikhail and Orthodox Judaism. Goodman's quirky, endearing characters; her light touch with heavy subjects; and her skillful interweaving of humor, pain, and wisdom add up to a story that will both amuse and edify any readers wondering where to find their own paradise park.-Jan Tarasovic, West Springfield High School, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Honeycreepers All this light was pouring in on me, and I started to open my eyes. I didn't know where in the world I was, and I reached over, but no one was there. The room was empty, and I didn't even know where the room was -- it was all just floating in empty space, and I couldn't say what planet or star I'd landed on. All that was running through me in that one second was the loneliness of being this tiny insignificant particle in the universe, and how a life weighs nothing in all that light. And what is that light compared to God? Then I woke up and it came back to me. That the guy, supposedly my boyfriend, who came out with me to this joint, a fleabag in Waikiki, was now gone, run off with a chick on her way to Fiji, and he -- actually they -- had left me with the hotel bill, which since I had no idea how to pay I was avoiding by just staying in the hotel and not checking out. But you know, the vision I had before, when I was just half awake, that was the important part. That was like the angels talking, when they speak to you and teach you right before you're born, and then they put their fingers on your lips -- Sh! don't tell! You almost forget, but somewhere inside, you remember. At the time, that morning, I just lay there and had no idea what to do, not to mention I had never as far as I knew even believed in the existence of God. But in my subconscious, and my unconscious, and everywhere else, I had all these questions and ideas about this higher power and this divine spirit, and maybe I would have been dealing with them if I hadn't been so broke. Finally I got up. I sat on the edge of the queen-size hotel bed. The bedspread was halfway off, sliding onto the floor, and the spread was green, printed yellow and orange with bird-of-paradise flowers so enormous they looked like some kind of dinosaur parts. The headboard was white rattan. So was the dresser and the mirror frame and the desk. There was no chair. Everything that could be nailed down was. There I was all by myself, yet it wasn't exactly like I'd had some kind of one-night stand! We were folk dancers. That's how my boyfriend and I had met a couple of years before. Gary and I were two of the original dancers that danced in Cambridge at MIT. Balkan on Tuesdays. Israeli on Wednesdays. This was in the seventies when the folk scene in Boston was just starting, and there was a group of us -- it was our life. We'd gather together at night -- guys in cutoff shorts and girls in Indian gauze skirts, tank tops. In winter we'd strip down out of our parkas and ski hats and wool socks, and unzip until we were barefoot. I had long straight hair, light brown, and I wore it loose down to my waist, and I lived to dance in Walker Gym with my hair flying around me and my shirt against my bare skin, and the smooth gym varnish on the floor like syrup to my toes. The music came from a tape recorder mounted on a little wooden cart painted gypsy colors, yellow and red, and stenciled in fancy green: MIT FOLK DANCE CLUB. The names of the dances were scribbled in chalk on a green chalkboard wheeled in from one of the classrooms. Then, from seven to eleven at night, we circled and wheeled and flew. We would dance like this for Balkan: twenty at a time together with our arms linked in a line, and our legs kicking and feet moving to rhythms like 7/8 or 11/16. Like this for Israeli: in concentric circles, feet flying, every other person off the ground. Gary and I were such a pair that everybody watched us. When we left the gym it was like after a performance, all those admiring eyes. We'd walk outside in winter, and shuffle through the snow with the heat still on us, carrying our coats for blocks before we started to get cold. Just wandering in the slush and barely noticing that gradual little bit of freezing cold water that starts wicking in through the seams of your boots. We'd get home to Allston and run up the stairs to Gary's apartment -- a real find on top of a doddering Victorian house. We had a kitchenette wired up in half a hall, and a dormer bedroom, where we curled up in blankets. I used to sit for hours in bed playing my guitar, the radiator like drums behind me, bang banging away. Originally he was the one with the traveling bug. Gary was one of those Vietnam-era graduate students, thirty-five at that time, which was '74. He was still working on a government public health grant at Harvard, and he used to cart around boxes of those manila computer punch cards. Every once in a while the profs would fire up the old computer, and they'd input their data with a clicking and a clacking till the oracle spoke, spewing out numbers on that wide paper with pale-green and white stripes. Then Gary and the other grad students would all go back to their shared offices adorned with shag carpet remnants and cork bulletin boards, and they'd ponder the numbers. Gary had been doing this for years; and since it was a longitudinal study, which meant it didn't ever end, he was getting kind of restless. But I, on the other hand, was really busy, since I was just twenty -- in the middle of stopping out of college and getting seriously into dancing and my music -- folk stuff on my guitar. I listened to Joni Mitchell and Carole King and Jackson Browne. And of course I was writing my own stuff, too, all in their same styles. I was biking over the BU Bridge to Central Square, where I was working for this antiwar, antinuclear couple, Vivica and Dan, who I'd met from dancing, and who had originally come from Berkeley. We were holed up, the three of us, in a little one-room office trying to put a stop to military spending. To me bringing peace about was pretty good. But Gary, being fifteen years older, had bigger ambitions for the planet. He started talking about how he wanted to go west. The thing was I loved him. Not that he had a face to sink a thousand ships. He had fair skin, blinky brown eyes, shoulder-length hair, a Fu Manchu moustache. But he had beautiful feet, elastic arches. He had the longest arms of anyone I knew. And when he jumped! He could have been a pro. He could have traveled the world leaping in the air. That's the way I pictured it, him leaping and me spinning at his side. I still hadn't gotten over it, being so much younger than he was, and him choosing me to be his partner -- because my dancing was so good. And getting to live with him, which meant getting out of my dad's house and my stepmother's hair. And just realizing that Gary thought I was beautiful! It wasn't like I was plain. I wasn't plain at all. I was slender and had big black eyes, sleepy with eyeliner, and that shimmery loose hair, so when I danced I looked like a ballerina down at the hem. But I was young -- not even one-and-twenty like the guy in the poem -- and I couldn't believe Gary with his long arms and his gorgeous feet and hard muscles in his calves actually thought that I was beautiful. Excerpted from Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.