Summary and book reviews of Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman

Paradise Park

By Allegra Goodman

Paradise Park
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2001,
    432 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2002,
    432 pages.

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Book Summary

Brilliant, fresh, funny, and wise, Allegra Goodman has delighted readers with her short stories in The New Yorker and her critically acclaimed collections Total Immersion and The Family Markowitz. Her celebrated first novel, Kaaterskill Falls, was a national bestseller and a National Book Award finalist. The novel, wrote Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, "ratifies the achievement of the author's short stories, even as it announces the debut of a gifted novelist."

Now, in Paradise 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.

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, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Brilliant, fresh, funny, and wise, Allegra Goodman has delighted readers with her short stories in The New Yorker and her critically acclaimed collections Total Immersion and The Family Markowitz. Her celebrated first novel, Kaaterskill Falls, was a national bestseller and a National Book Award finalist. The novel, wrote Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, "ratifies the achievement of the author's short stories, even as it announces the debut of a gifted novelist."

Now, in Paradise 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...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Brilliantly crafted and pitched perfectly, which we expect from this author; but also challenging and deliberately un-ingratiating, which we might not.

Publisher's Weekly

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.

Library Journal

Smoothly told with vivid descriptions, living characters, plenty of humor, and great understanding, this novel fills the heart and stretches the mind. Highly recommended.

The Christian Science Monitor - Ron Charles

It's too early to pick the happiest book of the year, but Allegra Goodman has set the bar pretty high with Paradise Park. This funny story of a woman's spiritual quest is so well designed for book-club discussions that the competition should just sit out for a couple of months.

Reader Reviews
June Fox

This book grew on me. At first, I found it disappointing; I didn't care for the protagonist (too silly), and couldn't relate to her frivolous, try anything lifestyle. I felt the author didn't respect her much either! But then I started finding the ...   Read More

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