Deep in the Shade of Paradise
John Dufresne
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Buy *Deep in the Shade of Paradise* online
Deep in the Shade of Paradise
John Dufresne
W.W. Norton
364 pages
January 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Grisham Loudermilk and Ariane Thevenot are getting married. But Grisham's cousin Adlai Birdsong falls in love with Ariane, who is plagued by Grisham's apparent indifference, which isn't surprising given his fling with Miranda who travels around the country pulling an Airstream trailer.

John Dufresne's cast of interesting and imaginative characters include Earlene Fontana, song lyricist, and her intuitive son Boudou (rhymes with "who-do"); Adlai's parents Benning (Grisham's aunt) and Royce, who is struggling with Alzheimer's; Tous-les-Deux, the Siamese Twins; Delano Smith, who paints murals in town; and bigamist Alvin Lee Loudermilk, cousin and founder of the Fire Baptized Evangelical Temple of the King. All gather at the ancestral home of Paradise, located in the town of Shiver-de-Freeze, to celebrate the upcoming nuptials.

Utilizing an omniscient point of view to the fullest, Dufresne (Louisiana Power and Light, Love Warps the Mind a Little) bounces from one character's viewpoint to another, and even finds many opportunities to use his own. In describing Shiver-de-Freeze, he writes: "We call this part of town Mount of Olives on account of the old Indian Burial Mound."

At times, Deep in the Shade of Paradise seems like a fiction-writing workshop with Earlene's brainstorming lists

THINGS THAT FLY: monarch butterflies, dreams, rumors, pilots, pollen, sounds to our ears, light to our eyes, prayer to our gods, planets in the firmament, birds in the air, their songs, the wind, the clouds, the dead
and actual writing prompts with space within the book for readers who feel like contributing. Dufresne also includes bits of information about himself within the text and often addresses the reader.

The author mentions early that Deep in the Shade of Paradise is a story about love and marriage. Love and marriage may be the focus, but it is chock full of the unusual ways in which friends and relatives died, with a sense of detachment and hilarity:

Benning said, "My cousin Thalassa Meades her little baby boy to the hogs. Nothing but bones and scalp in the morning."
Deep in the Shade of Paradise is a perfect example of the type of humorous Southern literature being produced today (Fannie Flagg, Bailey White, etc.). However, Dufresne's onslaught of insignificant characters and his jumping from one person's viewpoint to the next can leave the reader confused and the story disjointed. Humorous situations and interesting secondary characters are a welcome plus in most novels, but there comes a point when enough is enough.

© 2002 by April Galt for Curled Up With a Good Book

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