The Border of Paradise

The Border of Paradise

A Novel

Book - 2016
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In booming postwar Brooklyn, young David Nowak cannot fit in. His family, a pillar of the Polish immigrant community, is at a loss to help their boy, who is obsessive, neurotic and wracked by insomnia. After inheriting control of the family fortune while still in high school, David abandons life in New York to travel the world. His return to the U.S. with Daisy, a young Taiwanese woman, marks an irreparable break with his past. Escaping to the Northern California wilderness, the newlyweds craft an insular, often idyllic existence for their two children, William and Gillian. But while modern life threatens to lure the children away, it is the looming madness of their parents, and its shocking legacy, that will decide their fate.
Publisher: Los Angeles, CA : The Unnamed Press, [2016].
ISBN: 9781939419699
Characteristics: 290 pages ; 22 cm.


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Mar 31, 2019

Three months after reading "Border of Paradise" I still find it difficult to put words to the impact Esme Weijun Wang's debut novel has had upon me. As someone who has experienced mental illness, I found Wang's portrayal of the event of it and its consequences both frank and compassionate. The book's story-telling style welds together an almost blunt concreteness with a mythical quality that, for me, communicates the "feel" of madness far more convincingly than some of the more conventionally narrative efforts I've read.

In this novel, Wang also builds an argument for the model of inter-generational trauma; how the "sins" of the parents are, as it has been said, "visited upon their children unto the seventh generation". While such wisdom has become almost cliche in today's media, Wang's evocation of it here achieves a visceral realism that has shaken this reader to the core. Whatever faults one may find in "Border of Paradise", this dimension of the story alone makes it, in my mind, eminently worth the read. Just be sure you are prepared to face what the book wants to show you!

Jul 14, 2016

This book was sad, captivating, beautiful - but petered out disappointingly at the end. I read this book in 36 hours because I was so captivated but the last 3 pages were a huge letdown. That being said, the writing is spectacular and it gives great insight into the life of immigrants, first generation Americans, and mental illness. The commentary on mental illness reads as both honest and kind - it acknowledges the negative impacts on the individual and those in their lives while demonstrating its transient nature and how unconditional love is.


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