Children of Paradise by Fred D'Aguiar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
These days, "drinking the Kool-Aid" is one of those toss-off lines - sadly, I remember watching the news when it became a horrific reality. In Children of Paradise, the author does a good job of imagining what it was like to be part of a communal group living in an unnamed South American jungle. Readers are slightly removed from the action despite the use of first person points-of-view because he never uses the word "I" but always refers to the p.o.v. by their name ("The preacher says..."). And one of those we follow? Adam, the compound's gorilla. Now that's bold!
It's clear that this supposed paradise is riddled with cracks and problems (not to mention small acts of disobedience). What's not so clear is why the people adore their preacher, why they stay when it could be easy to go - much less why they put up with some of his ideas. In part this is because we never really follow a true believer, and in part it's because we join the story closer to the end than to the beginning or middle. And that ending? While it's a little muddled, it did bring back the memory of those days 35 years ago, watching the news, hearing about the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid that nearly 1,000 people drank and died.
ARC provided by the publisher.