Imagine that it had been Truman Capote himself who'd been savaged in Holcomb, Kansas, and that he had survived to describe his ordeal. That is the level of command and sinew at work in [Terri Jentz's] writing.” The New York Times Book Review
“Powerful . . . [Jentz] moves with great skill back and forth between the year of the attack and the years of her investigation.” Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Strange Piece of Paradise is a breathtaking memoir that deserves enshrinement on the essential books about the American West, worthy of a place beside Norman Mailer's classic account, The Executioner's Song.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“[Jentz's] well-crafted story of trying to make sense of lunacy is unforgettable.” People
“Jentz excels in capturing the aftermath of the attack. . . . [She] is a savvy, big-hearted narrator who refuses to rush to judgment. . . . A singular, breathtaking document of devastation, survival, and hard-won hope.” Newsday
“In her spellbinding, heartbreaking tale of one random act of carnage, Jentz shows how evil sometimes doesn't have a face but leaves scars both physical and emotional.” USA Today
“This book, a haunting meditation on the attack and Jentz's hunt for her would-be murderer, is like nothing I have ever read. . . . [Strange Piece of Paradise] packs the power of a story that has simmered for twenty years. Jentz's intelligence and felicity with language amp up that power; her detective work delivers real thrills. . . . Gratifying.” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
“The pacing and subject matter will keep readers mesmerized throughout. . . . An extraordinary story from a gifted writer.” Library Journal
“[Strange Piece of Paradise] will do more than just captivate usit will also politicize us, change us, and move us to action.” Chicago Tribune
"Creepy, compelling, hard to put down…" That's how our editors describe Strange Piece of Paradise, Terri Jentz's powerful account of the savage 1977 assault that derailed her life and started her on a long journey back to the past to find peace of mind. Severely injured by an axe-wielding stranger in the Oregon desert, Jentz found herself, 15 years later, "stuck" in time, unable to move forward and haunted by recurring dreams that finally compelled her to return to the scene of the unsolved crime. Expertly researched and beautifully described, this mesmerizing mix of memoir and true crime is as riveting as any James Patterson thriller.
The author was a Yale student biking cross-country during the summer of 1977 when she and her roommate were attacked by an axe-wielding cowboy while camping in Oregon. Jentz escaped with a gashed arm, while her friend was nearly blinded from head injuries. Fifteen years later, in 1992, Jentz returns to the scene of the attack to repair the psychic wound and attempt to close the case. Dogged in her pursuit of the truth (though largely abandoning the subtitle's promise of introspection), Jentz interviews the witnesses who saw her stumble out of Cline Falls State Park that June night; she scrutinizes police files and discovers the halfhearted investigation of suspects, learning about several horrific killings that took place in Oregon then. Jentz even befriends the former girlfriends of one suspect who becomes frighteningly plausible as the culprit. She finally tracks down the local cowboy known for carving his initials into his axe handle; though he can no longer be prosecuted for the attack, the satisfaction of seeing him convicted for another offense is a bittersweet vindication. While a thorough, forthright detective, screenwriter Jentz tends to meander and includes unnecessary detail. Still, her story is chilling and will enthrall true crime readers. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This book opens 15 years after a horrifyingly brutal assault in which Jentz and a Yale classmate, asleep at an Oregonian campground, were first run over and then attacked by a hatchet-wielding stranger. Jentz first returned to Oregon in 1992 to reclaim the self she lost at 19 and conduct her own investigation into the crime, for which no one was ever prosecuted. Her story is simultaneously riveting and disturbing-not an embellished memoir but a straightforward, chronological account based on notes, crime reports, newspaper accounts, hospital records, lab reports, and the author's own memory of events. Piece by piece and with the help of the suspect's abused former girlfriends and others living in the area at the time, she builds a solid case against her alleged attacker and gains self-confidence and courage, eventually becoming a victims' rights advocate. This eloquent, brilliantly written book addresses random violence in American culture, the justice system, the glorification of those who commit crimes, and the corresponding diminishment of its victims. The pacing and subject matter will keep readers mesmerized throughout the book's nearly 600 pages. An extraordinary story from a gifted writer; strongly recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/06.]-Lisa Nussbaum, formerly with Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Attacked while asleep in a tent during a cross-country bicycle trip, the author returned to Oregon years later to investigate the crime and to search for the assailant, who was never apprehended. The June 22, 1977, attack was grisly. A man drove his pickup through the tent, backed over Jentz and her college roommate Shayna, then went after them with an axe. The author, now a screenwriter, did not see the attacker's face, only his oddly neat cowboy attire. Shayna, who sustained a life-threatening head wound, continues to have no memory of the assault. Jentz is relentless in her pursuit of Dirk Duran (a name that, like others in this account, she has changed), a strikingly handsome but volatile young man who lived near the crime scene, a roadside park called Cline Falls. Some local people suspected Duran because of his unstable, abusive behavior, but, for reasons that the author explores, the police did not investigate him closely. Jentz did. With the help of two committed friends, she interviewed many who knew Duran, including co-workers, relatives and women he'd abused. Eventually, she pieced together not only the details of the crime but also Duran's twisted, vicious history. In one striking scene, years after the attack, Jentz goes to watch Duran's trial on another charge. (The statute of limitations had expired in her own case.) He knows she's been on his trail, and their eyes meet. The author is meticulous about detail; she read countless newspaper articles, court and hospital documents; she drove up lonely, remote roads to find people who might provide only a single nail for the edifice she was erecting. But her overlong account should have been substantially trimmed, and thefrequent passages of pop psychology are amateurish. An emotional piece of investigative work, vitiated in places by prolixity and psycho-cliches.