I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
I am a big fan of historical fiction because it always makes me want to go out and learn more about the subject represented in the book. This particular book was a tough one as it dealt with Jonestown. The story focuses on a mother and daughter who are part of Jones' commune. Joyce joined the commune in the hope of a better life for herself and her daughter but, after witnessing some of the preacher's unstable behavior and practices, she is having doubts. Her 10-yr-old daughter, Trina, has become one of the preacher's favorites and he uses her in her sermons while forcing her to participate in often dangerous demonstrations. Tying them all together is the gorilla held captive at the commune. Adam is a witness to everything that happens in the commune and he has a special affinity for the children in general and Trina in particular. Following the months and days leading up to the tragedy, CHILDREN OF PARADISE offers readers a glimpse into a crumbling earthbound paradise and the people who inhabit it.
It took me awhile to get into the book but I found it captivating once I was about halfway through it. Knowing what happened at Jonestown made me want to discover the fate of Joyce and Trina even more. And it made the story that much more tragic. I thought Adam was an interesting character to add into the mix as he serves not only as an observer but also a key player in most of the profound moments in the book. My one complaint is that D'Aguiar anthropomorphizes Adam a bit too much. It is meant to come off as magical realism but it doesn't. It just comes off as unbelievable and over the top. Especially at the end of the book. Overall, it was an interesting and sad story and I would love for someone else to read it so we can discuss the very ending. I'm still not sure what happens!
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. An interesting look into the last tragic days at Jonestown. The characters are fascinating even though the narrative can be frustrating at times.