The basics: Set on a small, isolated island in the South Pacific, The Last Good Paradise is primarily the story of Ann and Richard, a couple from Los Angeles seeking respite from near financial ruin. Ann, an attorney who dreams of being an artist, and Richard, a chef with complicated issues around eating animals, escape to this island, where they encounter a quirky cast of characters.
My thoughts: I tend to enjoy novels about people living in or visiting far away places (as my Internet moniker is nomadreader, after all.) And Soli offers a fascinating exploration of an unnamed island in the South Pacific in The Last Good Paradise. Admittedly, the thought of having the means and opportunity to leave reality behind sounds amazing to me, but I wouldn't opt for the kind of island Ann and Richard choose. I would still want electricity with my luxury, for example. And I am wary of being some place too remote. But that distinction is exactly part of the intrigue. Still, the extremism of this novel felt like too much for me from time to time. It's as though Soli turned the dial up too loud on too many parts of the story, and it veers from realism into something almost farcical. Ann and Richard are on the verge of too much dramatic financial ruin. Dex and Wende are well drawn, but they still veer into caricature at times. The resort workers have complicated, inner lives too, yet those inner lives didn't always seem authentic to me. For a book with so many twists and with so much happening, the plot isn't what sticks in mine, nor do most of the characters. Instead, I remember Ann, the characters I found most interesting, and Soli's writing, which will once again entice me to read her next book.
Favorite passage: "It was the precarious balancing act between solitude and community that made perfection."
The verdict: While I felt some characters were more entertaining and well-developed than others, this novel's plot wasn't what prompted me to keep picking it up. Soli's writing is beautiful in this novel, and I enjoyed each moment I spent reading it. Her observations on the characters are the novel's biggest strength. Yet as I reflect on the book itself, I find myself struggling with some of its plot points and characters. While some were dynamic, others felt convoluted.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 320 pages
Publication date: February 10, 2015
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Last Good Paradise from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit all the tour stops, visit Tatjana Soli's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
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