Title: The Last Good Paradise
Author: Tatjana Soli
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
On a small, unnamed coral atoll in the South Pacific, a group of troubled dreamers must face the possibility that the hopes they’ve labored after so single-mindedly might not lead them to the happiness they feel they were promised.
Ann and Richard, an aspiring, Los Angeles power couple, are already sensing the cracks in their version of the American dream when their life unexpectedly implodes, leading them to brashly run away from home to a Robinson Crusoe idyll.
Dex Cooper, lead singer of the rock band, Prospero, is facing his own slide from greatness, experimenting with artistic asceticism while accompanied by his sexy, young, and increasingly entrepreneurial muse, Wende.
Loren, the French owner of the resort sauvage, has made his own Gauguin-like retreat from the world years before, only to find that the modern world has become impossible to disconnect from.
Titi, descendent of Tahitian royalty, worker, and eventual inheritor of the resort, must fashion a vision of the island’s future that includes its indigenous people, while her partner, Cooked, is torn between anarchy and lust.
By turns funny and tragic, The Last Good Paradise explores our modern, complex and often, self-contradictory discontents, crafting an exhilarating story about our need to connect in an increasingly networked but isolating world.
First things first: how can you pass up a book with such a beautiful cover?
The Last Good Paradise is a unique read. I initially wanted to try it because it seemed to bring together many of my reading interests: complicated family relationships! Travel! Food! Yup, can't go wrong with that. I got all of those things in spades throughout the book. But that makes this novel sound rather simplistic, and simplistic it is not.
Soli has taken some risks in terms of the narrative style. As the description implies, there are 7 different protagonists, and the storyline moves quickly between them throughout the book. The POV is always third person, but the focus changes from one character to the next quite often (and rather quickly at times). Those shifts in focus are not signified by a change in chapter (as I often see in other multiple-perspective novels). When I first noticed this, I was afraid that it would quickly become confusing and muddle the story. However, despite having so many primary characters, it came together surprisingly well. Probably not my favorite POV choice for a fiction novel, but Soli made it work.
I did enjoy the touches of wanderlust in this book. You can't go wrong with a story set in a beachy paradise. Plus, the many references to Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, Mutiny on the Bounty, etc. added a nice literary element that played up the setting (though I will admit they got a little much sometimes--if you are unfamiliar with any of those texts (and Shakespeare, for that matter), you're sure to miss a lot of the literary allusions that Soli goes for). All of the characters are ultimately trying to find their version of happiness, and despite the idyllic setting, they all come to realize that the happiness of their dreams might not be exactly what they want (or need).
The narration, the setting, the quests for happiness--all good things. But the characters themselves? That's one part of the book that I didn't roll with. I had a hard time finding any of them likeable, even though I'm pretty sure I was supposed to, as I was privy to their inner struggles to find peace and love. I'll admit that part of it was likely because they all regarded infidelity with such a ho-hum attitude. So many of the couples cheat on each other in this book, with the expectation that forgiveness is right around the corner. I didn't find this realistic or sympathy-inducing in the least.
The other character issue for me was that they all made very abrupt changes in personality and decision-making throughout the book. One minute Wende is Dex's mindless hottie, the next she's a politically-minded revolutionary who wants to leave Dex for film school. And that's only one example of many. It was enough to make my head spin. I appreciate that these people were all going on a bit of an emotional journey, but at times their sudden metamorphoses were rather hard to process.
Ultimately, The Last Good Paradise is a very ambitious novel. If you're like me, and want a solid piece of contemporary fiction that delves into some intriguing relationship issues, you're sure to get a lot of that! And the atmosphere of this book can't be beat--that is probably what will stick with me the most. However, I had a tough time building sympathy for the characters, and that makes me hesitant to rave about it too hard. Even so, an enjoyable read that gave me a lot more than what I initially bargained for...and I do enjoy surprises.
As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
HERE. And connect with Tatjana Soli on Twitter.
I have two copies to give away to 2 lucky readers! One is a new copy (delivered to you from TLC Book Tours) and the other is my gently-used ARC copy (delivered by me). Winner #1 will get the new copy, Winner #2 gets the used ARC from me. Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter! US/Canada only. Ends 2/23.
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