As soon as you learn that the brother and sister whose relationship is the central focus of Gordon Chaplin’s newest novel Paraiso were named Peter and Wendy, you already know that their parents were not suited for parenthood. Cute names and theme names display a narcissistic impulse that becomes a life-long burden for their children. In this case, did the parents want them to never grow up.

Peter was favored by his mother while she seemed to hate Wendy and Wendy hated her or told herself she did. We all know children need their parents’ love, so her hated had to be mixed with longing. No matter, Peter and Wendy loved each other and supported each other. When Peter ran away from school, he and Wendy decided to run away to Mexico. That they did not make it was a lifelong regret, especially after they became estranged some twenty years ago.

But now Wendy has finally made it all the way to Mexico. Her car breaks down and while waiting for the parts and repairs she joins the life of the village. She attracts the attention of psychopathic village petty tyrant. Meanwhile Peter is in New York on September 11th. The trauma, for both of them, reminds them of their love of each other, but can they find their way to forgiveness?

But there is so much more to Paraiso. There’s Kate, the youthful publishing intern and Claire, Wendy’s best friend. The village of Paraiso has the wonderful Felipe, Isabel, and Clamato. Then there are the murders. No, this is no murder mystery, but things happen.

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I confess that it was a bit hard to get into Paraiso. I think I read the first page about six or seven times. The first chapter left me cold, but then once I got past that, i was completely caught up and read it straight through to the end. I began to care for the people. I enjoyed the gentle humor, but even more I love that there is the deep abiding love of people, people in particular, not just humanity in general. You know, it’s so much easier to love humanity than it is to love people, but you can feel Chaplin’s love of people on every page.

You can also feel his love for the land. It is there in the descriptions that bring it to life so vibrantly that you can see it clearly as though you are there. The land is not just a setting, it is a mover in the story. The weather changes plans and forces decisions. The setting is, if you think about it, even an accomplice in murder.

 

Paraiso will be released on July 5th, 2016.
I was provided an e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.

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