State of Paradise

Laura Van Den Berg

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Book cover for State of Paradise
Book cover for State of Paradise

State of Paradise

State of Paradise

Laura Van Den Berg

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Description

A heart-racing fun house of uncanniness hidden in Florida's underbelly, from a reality-warping storyteller.

Along with her husband, a ghostwriter for a famous thriller author returns to her mother's house in the Florida town where she grew up. As the summer heat sets in, she wrestles with family secrets and memories of her own troubled youth. Her mercurial sister, who lives next door, spends a growing amount of time using MIND'S EYE, a virtual reality device provided to citizens of the town by ELECTRA, a tech company in South Florida, during the doldrums of a recent pandemic. But it's not just the ominous cats, her mother's burgeoning cult, or the fact that her belly button has become an increasingly deep cavern--something is off in the town, and it probably has to do with the posters of missing citizens spread throughout the streets.

During a violent rainstorm, the writer's sister goes missing for several days. When she returns, sprawled on their mother's lawn and speaking of another dimension, the writer is forced to investigate not only what happened to her sister and the other missing people but also the uncanny connections between ELECTRA, the famous author, and reality itself.

A sticky, rain-soaked reckoning with the elusive nature of storytelling, Laura van den Berg's State of Paradise is an interlocking and page-turning whirlwind. With inimitable control and thrilling style, she reaches deep into the void and returns with a story far stranger than either reality or fiction.

About the Author

Laura van den Berg is the author of three story collections, including I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, which was named one the ten best fiction books of 2020 by Time, and the novels Find Me and The Third Hotel, which was a finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, a PEN/O. Henry Award, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and she is a two-time finalist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. Born and raised in Florida, she splits her time between the Boston area and Central Florida.

Critical Reviews

"The summer's sweatiest novel . . . The author's inimitable talents shine in this spiky and sinister Floridian fever dream." --Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

"van den Berg holds a funhouse mirror up to a reality that many of us will recognize, one where multiple layers of mounting disaster--personal, political, climactic, and technological--whirl together into a perfect, uncanny storm." --Charley Burlock, Oprah Daily

"A ghost writer and her husband quarantine with her family in Florida, a place 'equal parts danger and magic.' Against this fraught backdrop, van den Berg skillfully swerves through trauma, mental illness, and memory, shifting from autofiction to thriller. This book feels like a powerful hurricane." --Lauren LeBlanc, The Boston Globe

"Few people do weird as well as Laura van den Berg, and her latest really brings it . . . Flirting with metafiction, and just slightly off-kilter from reality, State of Paradise is a hurricane of a book." --Arianna Rebollini, Bustle

"A page-turning story about the challenges of learning to let go." --Shannon Carlin, TIME

"Of her now seven books of fiction, this one is arguably her funniest, most playful, most innovative, and possibly my favorite . . . The book becomes not only an evocation of that year when so many of us stopped our lives, but also of dreams personal and universal, of pilgrimages, apocalypses, traumas, and tales." --Deb Olin Unferth, BOMB

"[A] strange, enthralling novel." --Lauren Puckett-Pope, ELLE

"Wonderfully weird." --Shannon Carlin, TIME

"I will go wherever Laura van den Berg and her eerie, uncanny imagination lead, even to the much-maligned sunshine state in storm season . . . A wry, surreal, lushly atmospheric metafictional mystery, I fell under the swampy spell of this novel from the get-go." --Dan Sheehan, Lit Hub

"Subtly speculative . . . deadpan hilarious . . . van den Berg takes measure of the pandemic's hidden impacts, escalating ecothreats, family traumas, and the nature of stories and our profound reliance on them." --Booklist (starred review)

"Readers who aren't sure how a science fiction plot will meld with writing that sometimes reads almost like memoir needn't worry. This is van den Berg, whose Lynchian sensibility and cool yet impassioned eye is somehow the perfect choice to examine what might be America's most eccentric state and the ways that 'we are called back to the things we most want to flee' . . . If speculative autofiction wasn't a thing, it is now; van den Berg is a pioneer." --Kirkus (starred review)

"The very weirdness of [van den Berg's] narratives forc[e] readers to rethink present-day reality . . . An unputdownable novel of a world spinning rapidly out of control." --Library Journal (starred review)

"Entrancing . . . Van den Berg is a master at nudging the familiar world slightly off its axis . . . This off-kilter story is hard to forget." --Publishers Weekly

"Pitch perfect and exquisitely composed. Laura van den Berg is a gifted and audacious writer and she's written a novel of weight, power and beauty. I couldn't put it down." --Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown

"A brilliant ghost story and a profoundly moving and atmospheric meditation on place, memory, and the very nature of reality, where everything is truly not as it seems. With sharp, gripping prose, Laura van den Berg fearlessly conjures the fundamental wildness of being alive in the world as we know it, and the pull of the deeper wildness within." --Mona Awad, author of Rouge

"State of Paradise chronicles strange pandemic days, the rise of mindless electronic escape, and grief's otherworldly whims in a wholly original and epically engaging novel from a master of episodic oddity. I'll follow Laura van den Berg wherever she wants to take me, even Florida." --Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch

"Like a summer coastal storm, State of Paradise overtook me with its wildness and sorcery. I loved becoming entangled in it. The storytelling here is mind-dilating." --Ling Ma, author of Bliss Montage

"Van den Berg writes with unearthly beauty about the oddity of being, and the borderlands between despair and wonder." --C Pam Zhang, author of Land of Milk and Honey

"State of Paradise is deeply, thrillingly weird. With missing sisters, sinkholes, cults, and floods, the novel is as surprising and compelling as Florida itself. Laura van den Berg's brilliance is only further confirmed by every book she writes--this newest one will blow your mind." --Julia Phillips, author of Bear

"Laura van den Berg excavates the secrets and mysterious technological forces unraveling a family and a sleepy subtropical community with mind-bending, unsettling clarity and devastating resonance. A thrilling, cautionary portrait of Florida's surreal wildness, State of Paradise is an absolute knockout." --Patricia Engel, author of The Faraway World

"State of Paradise is a weird, wild, thrilling journey through cults, addiction, messed-up families, the pandemic, the weather, and the strangeness and beauty of the great state of Florida. Laura van den Berg's writing is razor sharp and full of depth and humor, and she has an incredible imagination. This book is freaking brilliant." --Jami Attenberg, author of All This Could Be Yours

"In State of Paradise, Laura van den Berg evokes a world and a family teetering on the edge of collapse. In her taut, precise prose, van den Berg juxtaposes global crises with personal ones. Amid a pandemic and Floridian super-storms, a family contends with a death and with past traumas. This innovative book is short but vast, an exquisite exploration of the ways we try to heal ourselves in the face of unbearable loss. State of Paradise is a mesmerizing new book from one of our boldest writers." --Helen Phillips, author of The Need

Publishing Information

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pub date: 2024-07-09
Length: 224 pages

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