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This Other Eden

A Novel

by Paul Harding

This Other Eden by Paul Harding X
This Other Eden by Paul Harding
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 224 pages

    Jan 23, 2024, 224 pages


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Review of This other eden by Paul harding
In this novel, Paul Harding walks with Faulkner and McCarthy to pen a ferocious subsistence writing about suffering, incest, race, art, and faith -- and floods and fires; and unlike most contemporary authors, Harding seriously courts religiosity, futility, and cruelty in his fiction, which lends it earned tenderness and much needed nuance. It's a shame, then, that the major conflict of the novel between the progressive, utopian Apple Islanders and the progressive, utopian eugenics program of the state of Maine often lacks that same nuance.
Marian Y. (Troutdale, OR)

This Other Eden by Paul Harding
"This Other Eden" is a remarkable book of historical fiction based on a disturbing true story from the early twentieth century on an island off the coast of Maine.  Built around the themes of heritage and home, the story is told in language so rich that the setting comes profoundly to life.  The book highlights tragedy bred by prejudice and brilliance found in unexpected places.  Book clubs will find weighty topics for discussion, such as eugenics and bias.  Teens looking for a challenging read will find young characters to care about.  If you like historical fiction that makes you want to learn more and lyrical prose that paints vivid images, this is an excellent book for you.
Laurie M. (Bellingham, WA)

Five Star Read
If you’re tired of mindless thrillers, poorly written stories, books that make you say “meh” The Other Eden is waiting for you. It BLEW me away.

Based on a sad piece of American history, it is the story of a small island off the coast of Maine, inhabited for six generations, a mix of indigenous, Black, and white immigrants living as a community of one, in the 18th and 19th century. However, as the new century is born, so is the idea of eugenics. Thus ends this community.

Author Paul Harding is a master of his craft. The writing is simply sublime, even as it is not my typical favorite style. Long paragraphs, little dialogue, much description and yet, I could not put this short book down. I became invested in the lives of every person living on “Apple Island.” It almost feels like a fairy tale, told out of time, wrenching and heartbreaking, but also inspiring, leaving me awestruck at Harding’s skills.

This book shines a powerful spotlight on humanity’s consistent need to “Other” people who don’t fit into the majority’s opinion of what humans society should contain. This story may break your heart, as it did mine. It may also open our eyes.

We might want to take a lesson from this, as I do not believe history will be kind to what many Americans are doing today to immigrants, refugees, children, and our lgbtqia+ communities. Kindness, compassion, and empathy will make us historical heroes; racism, hatred, and bigotry will find us condemned.
Kathrin C. (Corona, CA)

This Other Eden
This is an outstanding work of historical fiction, so beautifully written, but also, sometimes painful to read. I had never heard of Malaga Island off the coast of Maine, and how it fit in with America's ongoing history of racism, intolerance and injustice before reading Paul Harding's latest novel. But over that backdrop comes a retelling with a super engrossing story of the mixed race people who inhabit Apple island over many generations. And some tales of their hardships, struggles, fears, knowledge, and humanity will stay with a reader for a very long time. This would make a great selection for book groups to ponder and discuss.
Susan S. (Salida, CO)

Eery and lyrical history
This Other Eden shines a bright light on a racial controversy in history that has eluded most Americans. Set along the Canada-Maine border, it recounts events from 1912 and before, affecting the residents of a small island of mixed-race residents that are marked for removal. It is historical fiction written from a lyrical and poetic viewpoint, at time heart-breaking in scope and dimension. It touches on many contemporary topics of prejudice, cruelty, interdependence, and family. It illuminates and educates, both lovingly and with the cold science of eugenics. It has much 'meat' for discussion and examination for book clubs, for families, for those who are wondering how we got where we are and where we might go from here.
Joan R. (Chicago, IL)

A Masterpiece!
This novel tells of a horrifying incident in our Nation's history with great lyricism and humanity. We are given the facts immediately so we know what's coming. It is not an easy story to read, and many parts are shocking, but the narrative voice treats the main characters with respect and gentleness. I was swept into its time and location, and found myself caring deeply about the residents of Apple Island, and also those off the Island. There's so much depth in theme, richness in detail, and beautiful prose to savor that I have no qualms in calling it a masterpiece.
Nancy M.

This Other Eden by Paul Harding is a moving, fictional interpretation of historical events from Maine's Malaga Island in the early 20th century. The resilience, faith, and perseverance of the families living on Apple Island are at once heartbreaking and inspiring. Harding's lyrical prose brings the characters and the island they inhabit to vivid life, transporting the reader right into the hearts and minds of the families, and the island's innate beauty. I highly recommend this book.
Dianne Y. (Stuart, FL)

Lyrical writing and exceptional imagery.
The Other Eden is a very well written book. I would highly recommend it if you have the time to take a deep dive to explore the writing and savor the lyrical writing and exceptional imagery. While I would not recommend it if you are just looking for a quick, easy read that doesn't require much effort. Many of the sentences are lengthy and complex and some may require a second read to fully gasp the meaning. However, if you take the time, it will be a memorable experience.
The characters are well developed, and the story is most thought provoking. From the title you might correctly expect the novel to include religious and spiritual references. However, the tone is not preachy, rather the references are used to further support the themes in the book.
The author adeptly describes the contrast between how the main characters view themselves and their lives and how they are viewed by those outside their community who control their future. The author leaves the reader to ponder this contrast and whether the everyday life of both may be nearly identical, yet extreme prejudice results in unjust actions.

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