Plume Putnam Incorporated, 1999 - 318
'They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here. They are 17 miles from a town which has 90 miles between it and any other. Hiding places will be plentiful in the Convent, but there is time and the day has just begun.They are nine, over twice the number of women they are obliged to stampede or kill and they have the paraphernalia for either requirement - rope, a palm leaf cross, handcuffs, Mace and sunglasses, along with clean, handsome guns.' So begins Toni Morrison's hypnotic and arresting new novel, 'Paradise', and so will it effectively and hauntingly end. The visit of cruel rage to the Convent frames Paradise, it literally collects and distills all the rich, churning history of this community, focusing the past. The cruelty called forth at the Convent will hold and completely transform Morrison's searing account of Ruby, Oklahoma, transform it for the reader as well as for the unhinged citizens of this town. Between the bookends of violence, Morrison unfolds her long-reaching history of Ruby, an insular black enclave in the flatland fields of Oklahoma. The town keeps a vivid memory of slavery and the infinite sacrifices of its ancestors by maintaining a brick oven with a suggestive, oracular grillwork inscription. Chapter by chapter, Morrison patiently spins out the cast of women of the Convent, Connie, Mavis, Gigi, Seneca, and the intertwined lives of the townspeople - Soane, Dovey, Patricia, Reverends Pulliam and Misner, the formidable twins Deacon and Steward Morgan, who own the town bank. This is Morrison at her most sure-handed, creating the myths behind the lives of her many characters, at once entangling and disentangling their collective and individual fates. It is why she is perhaps the most celebrated writer in America.