Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise

2.8 12
by Diana Abu-Jaber
     
 

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“A full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at [Abu-Jaber’s] table.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

At thirteen, Felice Muir ran away from home to punish herself for some horrible thing she had done—leaving a hole in the hearts of her pastry-chef mother, her real estate

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Overview

“A full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at [Abu-Jaber’s] table.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

At thirteen, Felice Muir ran away from home to punish herself for some horrible thing she had done—leaving a hole in the hearts of her pastry-chef mother, her real estate attorney father, and her foodie-entrepreneurial brother. After five years of scrounging for food, drugs, and shelter on Miami Beach, Felice is now turning eighteen, and she and the family she left behind must reckon with the consequences of her actions—and make life-affirming choices about what matters to them most, now and in the future.

Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Diana Abu-Jaber's delicious new novel weighs less than two pounds, but you may gain more than that by reading it. If you know her cream-filled work—especially Crescent and The Language of Baklava—you're already salivating. This Jorda­­nian American author writes about food so enticingly that her books should be published on sheets of phyllo dough. Birds of Paradise contains her most mouthwatering writing ever, but it's no light after-dinner treat. This is a full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at her table.
—The Washington Post
Cristina Garcia
In the end, the indisputable stars of Birds of Paradise are Felice and Miami itself, with its obliterating light, its "perfumed flames" of vegetation, the grand theater of its skies, its "running currents of Spanish." Miami and Felice mirror each other, getting under our skin, making us sweat to soaking. Abu-Jaber has captured Miami's insiders and outsiders, the ordinary and the outlandish, the hype, the hurricanes, the hoopla.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Abu-Jaber's fourth novel (after Origin) is a stunning portrayal of a damaged family. Five years before, at 13, beautiful Felice Muir ran away from home and her mother, Avis, father, Brian, and older brother, Stanley, to live on the streets of Miami. Avis relies on sporadic meetings with her daughter although Felice often neglects to appear. When Brian thinks of Felice, he focuses on the past: "In that warm salty night, he felt as if the texture of time itself were thickening, settling over them, as if they would be held together in the froth of air, its silky threads attaching and keeping them safe, everlasting family." Work keeps all of them absorbed: Avis is an expert pastry chef, Brian a real estate lawyer haunted by Miami's gentrification, Stanley the owner of a popular organic food shop, and even Felice has occasional modeling gigs that bring in small influxes of cash. Felice has left them, but her parents and brother are also alienated from one other as they mark the passage of time and reflect on Felice's upcoming 18th birthday. Abu-Jaber's effortless prose, fully fleshed characters, and a setting that reflects the adversity in her protagonists' lives come together in a satisfying and timely story. (Sept.)
Booklist
“Narrator Tamara Marston portrays the main characters—mother, father, daughter, and son—with feeling and sensitivity. Her reading recognizes that the city of Miami, where the novel is set, is also a character, and she infuses the descriptions of the landscape and urban setting with meaning.”
AudioFile
Elle
It is Birds of Paradise’s neither predictable nor merely haphazard momentum and its rich cast of characters that make us feel we’re in deliciously capable hands.— Bliss Broyard
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An unusually satisfying read.— Susanna Sonnenberg
New York Times Book Review
Miami comes alive . .
. the ambitions and accents of its inhabitants become as impossible to resist as a postprandial siesta in the tropics.— Cristina Garcia
Washington Times
“Brilliant… Birds of Paradise is likely to add further luster to [Abu-Jaber’s] literary reputation. … With her evocative prose and accomplished style, Diana Abu-Jaber’s Birds of Paradise explores with wisdom and insight the emotional fallout of a shattering family crisis. Yet in this profoundly moving novel, she also manages to unearth the inherent, cathartic beauty of family and individual survival in this complex and perilous new century.”
O Magazine
Abu-Jaber makes us wonder about more that what will happen to one girl with a guilty secret. What, after all, does it mean to be a family? Is love really 'exchangeable, malleable'? We can’t help turning pages full of stunning prose to find out.— Sarah Nelson
Miami Herald
Diana Abu-Jaber’s gorgeous novel explores the ways a modern family can break down and be reborn. She writes with a precise, almost poetic distillation of feeling, heightened in contrast to the ripe, exuberant landscape and the unsettled feelings of a family in limbo.— Amy Driscoll
The Oregonian
With Birds of Paradise, Abu-Jaber has made an amazing, gigantic leap into rare air, that hazy stratosphere we jokingly call The Big Time. Her novel is that worthy, and that beautiful.— Christine Selk
People Magazine
The Muirs’ absorbing story builds to a thoroughly satisfying climax.— Sue Corbett
The Washington Post
This Jordanian American author writes about food so enticingly that her books should be published on sheets of phyllo dough. Birds of Paradise contains her most mouthwatering writing ever, but it’s no light after-dinner treat. This is a full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at her table.— Ron Charles
Bliss Broyard - Elle
“It is Birds of Paradise’s neither predictable nor merely haphazard momentum and its rich cast of characters that make us feel we’re in deliciously capable hands.”
Susanna Sonnenberg - More
“An unusually satisfying read.”
Cristina Garcia - New York Times Book Review
“Miami comes alive . .
. the ambitions and accents of its inhabitants become as impossible to resist as a postprandial siesta in the tropics.”
Sarah Nelson - O Magazine
“Abu-Jaber makes us wonder about more that what will happen to one girl with a guilty secret. What, after all, does it mean to be a family? Is love really 'exchangeable, malleable'? We can’t help turning pages full of stunning prose to find out.”
Amy Driscoll - Miami Herald
“Diana Abu-Jaber’s gorgeous novel explores the ways a modern family can break down and be reborn. She writes with a precise, almost poetic distillation of feeling, heightened in contrast to the ripe, exuberant landscape and the unsettled feelings of a family in limbo.”
Christine Selk - The Oregonian
“With Birds of Paradise, Abu-Jaber has made an amazing, gigantic leap into rare air, that hazy stratosphere we jokingly call The Big Time. Her novel is that worthy, and that beautiful.”
Sue Corbett - People Magazine
“The Muirs’ absorbing story builds to a thoroughly satisfying climax.”
Ron Charles - The Washington Post
“This Jordanian American author writes about food so enticingly that her books should be published on sheets of phyllo dough. Birds of Paradise contains her most mouthwatering writing ever, but it’s no light after-dinner treat. This is a full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at her table.”
Alan Cheuse
“The novel itself swells with life and style, with the stark contrast of the delicacy of fancy pastries and the down and dirty life on the beach.”
From the Publisher
“Nuanced and deftly drawn. . . . Will [also] draw teens.”
Booklist

“Tamara Marston’s strong delivery provides the characters with distinct voices, helping to make the richly developed and intriguing cast of players as well as the delicious words come alive.”
Library Journal [starred review]

Library Journal
Stunningly beautiful Felice Muir spends her 18th birthday getting wasted at the beach with her homeless friends. Her pastry-chef mother, Avis, bakes her a cake but ends up crumbling it into the ocean as a potion-savvy Haitian neighbor looks on. Felice's father, Brian, and her brother, Stanley, simply try to ignore the day. Having run away from home at 13 to exorcise her guilt over a teenage prank gone wrong, Felice has spent the intervening years on the streets of Miami, occasionally earning money by modeling. The family deals with Felice's disappearance—and occasional reappearance—by immersing themselves in their work: Avis in her pastry business, Brian as an attorney in a development firm, and Stanley in his organic market. VERDICT Whether it's the creation of evanescent confections or the drug-ridden life of the streets, award-winning writer Abu-Jaber (Origin) impressively describes vastly different worlds with equal expertise. Particularly notable in this exceptionally written novel is Miami itself, portrayed as vividly as any of the characters. A literary family drama with extra appeal to foodies. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/11.]—Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib., Malibu, CA
Kirkus Reviews

Abu-Jaber (Origin, 2007, etc.) uses a plot staple of standard-issue domestic melodrama—a family dealing with a runaway daughter—to develop a meticulous, deeply moving portrayal of imperfect human beings struggling to do right.

Miami, churning with money, steamy energy and clashing cultures shortly before the recent real-estate crash, is the evocative setting. Elite pastry chef Avis Muir and her husband Brian, a corporate lawyer for a big developer, remain in crisis five years after their stunningly beautiful daughter Felice ran away. Still in Miami, Felice has met briefly with her mother a handful of times, but neither her father nor older brother Stanley, whom Avis always neglected in her obsession with Felice, has seen her since she was 13. As a hurricane approaches, the characters are buffeted by their own internal storms. Increasingly brittle and withdrawn, Avis finds herself drawn to a mysterious Haitian neighbor with her own terrible family secrets. Passive Brian, overwhelmed with his sense of failure as husband and father, is tempted both to have an affair and to invest in a cockamamie real estate deal. Stanley, always underrated by his parents, is now the charismatic proprietor of a wildly popular organic market he fears he may lose to encroaching development. About to turn 18, Felice is outgrowing her life as a street kid but believes she must stay away from home to punish herself for past acts. Glorious descriptions, both of nature and Avis's mouthwatering pastry, offset yet intensify the jagged emotions of the Muirs.

In this provocative exploration of the fault lines of loyalty and guilt, Abu-Jaber's searing perceptions, particularly about parents and children, more than make up for a less than convincing ending or an occasional lapse into overlabored prose.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393082944
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
05/07/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
338,345
File size:
1 MB

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