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Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise

Written by Diana Abu-Jaber

Narrated by Tamara Marston


Birds of Paradise

Written by Diana Abu-Jaber

Narrated by Tamara Marston

ratings:
4/5 (18 ratings)
Length:
14 hours
Released:
Sep 6, 2011
ISBN:
9781611745788
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Avis Muir is a brilliant pastry chef, Brian Muir a corporate real estate attorney. Their son, Stanley, is the proprietor of a trendy food market. Their beautiful daughter, Felice, is missing. A runaway at 13, Felice has spent five years modeling tattoos, skateboarding, clubbing, and sleeping in a squat house or on the beach. She’s about to turn 18. Soon all of the Muirs will be forced to confront their anguish, loss, and sense of betrayal. And Felice must reckon with the guilty secret that drove her away, then face her fear of losing her family and her sense of self forever.
 
 Set against the vibrant backdrop of contemporary Miami, Birds of Paradise is filled with piercing insights into the politics of food and sugar, teen culture, and of the ebb and flow of marriage. The writing is sumptuous, the story moving, and the descriptions of food (one of Abu-Jaber’s specialties) are mouth-watering.
Released:
Sep 6, 2011
ISBN:
9781611745788
Format:
Audiobook

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Reviews

What people think about Birds of Paradise

4.1
18 ratings / 18 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    This is full of vivid imagery and has a poetic feel, yet the story felt flat and I wasn't drawn to the characters. The best part of this story was the wonderful food descriptions. My mouth watered and I could almost smell them.
  • (5/5)
    Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber, is about a family in Miami with a run-away daughter. It looks at things from the perspective of each of the family members, what they're doing, how they're feeling. The characters are human and likeable and I found I really cared about what was happening to them. I found the end a bit disappointing but otherwise it's a great read.
  • (2/5)
    I received the audio version of this book as an Early Reviewer. I have to confess, it was difficult to invest in the story as the author seemed to take endless time painting a picture with intricate details with a myriad of characters that I couldn't connect to. By the time I got to disc 5 of 10, I wasn't sure whether to throw in the towel or hold out to see if the author was going to redeem herself in the end... the jury is still out.
  • (4/5)
    Mesmerizing, beautifully written book of family, loss and reconciliation. Abu-Jaber is a very sensual writer, bringing the reader into the lives of the Muir family and the heat and clamour of Miami. Solange and her bird were fascinating characters and I wished they hadn't disappeared - I wanted to know more.
  • (3/5)
    In pulsing, steamy, half Latin Miami, some unspeakable thing happens to 13 year old Felice Muir and she disappears from her family, fleeing to live on the streets. Her mother, a talented pastry chef, her father, a successful business man and her brother, a regular good kid are baffled and heartbroken, clueless about what drove Felice to the streets and helpless to get her back. On Felice's 18th birthday a storm sweeps through Miami precipitating events that will either bring Felice and her family back together or tear them apart forever.Birds of Paradise is packed with Abu-Jaber's trademark, mouthwatering food descriptions and the lush, and foreign feeling Miami landscape. Yet somehow these descriptions don't flow with the plot making for a jarring feel. Normally I fall in love with her characters and tear through the story to find out what befalls them. In this story I found myself uninterested in their plight and not particularly liking any of them. There was no connection for me, I didn't feel like I knew them or understood their motivations. I won't recommend this book to anyone, but I'll still pick up Diana Abu-Jaber's next in hopes that I'll find those characters I love have returned.I listened to the audio version of Birds of Paradise narrated by Tamara Marston. Her cool, even voice contributed to my feeling of disconnection with the characters.
  • (5/5)
    Felice Muir was 13 when she first ran away from home. No apologies, no explanations. Her parents, Avis and Brian, and her older brother, Stan, were heartsick, imagining the worst. She did return home but only to run away again and again until she finally stayed away for good. Felice eventually made a deal with her mother that if they didn't try to find her and drag her home, she would allow occasional contact. Avis agreed to this plan, but Brian and Stan washed their hands of Felice. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Felice's voluntary absence has torn a huge hole in the fabric of the Muir family and that the remaining family members have found comfort in their work: Avis as a world-class pastry chef, Brian as a corporate attorney for a real estate developer, and Stan as the owner of an organic-foods market. Not so clear is why Felice feels the need to to live on the dangerous streets and beaches of Miami Beach as a teenage vagrant instead of in her comfortable home in Coral Gables with her loving family. As Felice's 18th birthday approaches along with a hurricane headed straight for Miami, those reasons are explained and are much more complicated than simple teenage rebellion. This is a story with numerous interesting and complicated characters and a feel-good ending, without being too sappy, that gives the reader some sense of closure regarding the Muir family. Excellent book. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy family fiction.
  • (2/5)
    I was pleasantly surprised when I received the audio book. The narrator has a smooth and soothing voice as she tells the tale of Felice Muir who ran away at age 13.I loved that the story was surrounded by food but a little disappointed that it wasn't about Arab-American culture. I would have love the story more if it was a hardcover version rather than audio but I would recommend the audio to friend who were looking for a good story.
  • (5/5)
    Plus plus plus...I have this in Audio Books on CD..This is a really good read. In the beginning I had a hard time getting the drift of it. But now that I am close to the end. All things make sense. I know that I do not leave the normal review...I don't like to explain the whole book. If you want that it is easy enough to read it anywhere. I like to share what touches me in a read..The characters are so rich in Birds of Paradise, I find myself routing for them as if they were friends of mine....Very good read or listen, what ever you do...I will add when I am totally done. MahaloJust finished-fantastic. I hope there is another book, because I care for these characters and want to see more of their lives...More please.....
  • (3/5)
    I am rating this book a 3 simply because I did not care for the book, which pains me to say, does not mean other readers will not. I had exceedingly high expectations for this book, which could be part of the problem. I also listened to the book on Audio since I am unable to read books right now which further cold have left me feeling so-so about the book. Birds of Paradise left me overall sad at a time when I needed to listen to books for enjoyment and/or escape.
  • (5/5)
    Being an avid Diana Abu-Jaber fan (my prior favorite of her's being the novel titled Crescent) I had high expectations for this novel. Abu-Jaber did not disappoint. Her multi-layered story is told so beautifully that one can almost taste the wonderful baked creations produced by Avis, one of the novel's main characters. Her characters feel like they could be friends or neighbors.Abu-Jaber alternates voices in this novel using all four of the family members who make up the framework for this tale. She does this in such way as to make each character come alive.Not only are the charaters rendered fully, the story is, as mentioned by several reviewers, multilayered and intriguing. The story includes many social, family and racial issues. It may sound like a lot of plot packed into one story but Diana Abu-Jaber pulls it off seamlessly.This reviewer highly recommends this book .If you are a Abu-Jaber fan you will not be disappointed, if you haven't read her before, this book will most likely make you a fan of this author as well.
  • (5/5)
    This book takes a hold of you and doesn't let go! I enjoyed every bit of it. The reader is awesome.
  • (5/5)
    Originally published on Read Handed.Put Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber at the top of your must read list.Abu-Jaber's novel is engrossing, beautiful, heartbreaking, and sensory. The blurb on the back calls it "totally involving and deeply satisfying, a glorious feast of a book." I agree one hundred percent.Birds of Paradise is a book to read slowly, savoring each paragraph. The language is poetic and visceral. I could take up an entire post sharing moving quotes from the novel, but instead I'll give you just a few:* "Now Felice and Emerson fall into a syncopation, they talk as if they're catching up - rushing to fill in gaps - together watching the gradual, particulate shift of the light. Felice feels a wistful happiness: getting something that is not exactly what she'd expected. A sense of lowering the guard, of risking something, and of gently forgetting something important, though she couldn't exactly say what" (pg. 64). "She will not let herself cry. Crying cracks you open. Better to cry over pointless things, she thinks, like burning the butter, than things that matter. Or things you can't pin down" (pg. 89). "She hadn't felt - not in this immediate, personal way - just how much colder and sharper things could be, how planets could snap out of their orbits, how frigid, wasting blackness could come in a tide, erasing everything" (pg. 281). "She remembers how the land dropped back into distance: wetlands, marsh, lazy-legged egrets flapping over the highway, tangled, sulfurous mangroves. And water. Steel-blue plains, celadon translucence" (pg. 349).Did I mention that this novel takes place in Florida? Miami, specifically. It's filled with beautiful descriptions of Florida land and cityscapes; familiar Florida experiences like condo developments, hurricanes, glistening heat, and quite a few mentions of my favorite grocery store, Publix. Here is a sampling of Florida quotes from the book: "Unlike New York or Boston, Miami was a place you could go to and really create something new. Best of all, its boom-or-bust energy, a penchant for dreaming: a dream of a city in a dream of a state" (pg. 76). "Increasingly Brian feels that living in Florida is an act of both rebellion and willful perversity - like rebuilding a house on the train tracks" (pg. 97).The story itself centers around a broken family, with the chapters alternating between the family members' points of view. There's Avis, a gourmet baker; Brian, a lawyer for a property development company; Stanley, the owner of a locally and organically stocked grocery store; and Felice, a restless and haunted beauty who runs away from home at thirteen.The novel is about loss and discovery, heartbreak and strength, loneliness and family ties. The characters are flawed and sympathetic. The setting is sensuous and vibrant. The overall reading experience is profoundly fulfilling. I truly cannot praise this novel enough.I highly recommend Birds of Paradise, especially to readers of literary fiction or poetry.*These quotes are from an advance reading copy and could be different in the final version of the book.
  • (5/5)
    Birds of Paradise had me hooked from the start, and took me on a meandering, tense journey that I won’t soon forget.The book tells the story of a family’s heartbreak over the seemingly causeless runaway of their 14 year old daughter. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, and gives us insight into how each family member deals with that heartbreak individually, from the mother, father, brother – and the runaway herself.Through much of the book, I was left wondering what exactly led to the family’s current predicament, but as the details begin to slowly take shape, I realized that the ‘why’ was not nearly as important as the effect it had on this family. I wanted to sit down, shake each one of them, and make them listen to each other.Diana Abu-Jaber’s writing is completely breathtaking. It is books like this that make me want to give up on my own fiction. From grief, to despair, to hopefulness and back again, this is a book that will make you feel.p.s. It is my duty to inform you that I received a free review copy from the publisher.
  • (3/5)
    I received this audiobook from LT early reviewers and had mixed feelings about it. The narrator was great. Engaging, yet soothing voice. I liked the idea of the story but I wasn’t exactly happy with the way the various story lines wrapped up. There were very in depth issues that had no real resolution and some characters seemed to disappear with no explanation. It was good to listen to in the car but I’m not sure it is a book I would have spent money on.
  • (4/5)
    Five years after their 13 year-old daughter Felice ran away, Brian and Avis Muir are still struggling to cope with their loss and feelings of failure. Avis is a gourmet pastry chef who immerses herself in her work to deal with her grief, using pastries as comfort and communication. (There are so many lush descriptions of pastries in this book – I was craving baked goods almost the whole time I listened to it!) Brian is a real estate lawyer and he and Avis’s oldest child, Stanley, owns a natural foods grocery store. Felice, who is almost 18 now, lives on the beach and earns money by doing sporadic modeling jobs.The story alternates between Avis, Brian and Felice’s point of view. The reason that Felice ran away is slowly revealed through flashbacks. Abu-Jaber has a gift for metaphor and writes very lyrically. The main characters are well-developed. Although I didn’t agree with the choices that Avis made, I think there are mothers out there that would have made the same ones. There was one loose end regarding Avis’s neighbor that I wish would have been wrapped up at the end but I thought the rest of the plot lines ended in a good spot.Felice works as a model, even shooting a Gap ad. I found myself wondering how accurate Abu-Jabar’s representation of the Miami modeling scene was. I dabble in modeling here in Kansas City and there is no way a major client here would hire a homeless kid who didn’t have an agent but maybe things are different in Miami. I was kind of drawn out of the story whenever modeling was brought up because I would start wondering about that.I listened to the audio version of this book. I liked the narrator – she had a gentle, soothing voice. It was almost too soothing; a few times I was so relaxed that I realized I wasn’t paying attention and had to rewind.After reading this lovely offering from Diana Abu-Jabar, I’m looking forward to reading more of her books.
  • (4/5)
    I was privileged to receive this audio book from Library Thing and found the book to be enjoyable. For some reason the voice of the narrator was difficult for me to connect with but the story line held my attention and I was hopeful for the positive reunion and redemption of the characters from the beginning. The setting is Florida and the book is told in chapters with a different family member the center of each chapter. Felice is the thirteen year old runaway who is the main character in the story. Her mother Avis, is a baker who is fixated on the beauty and fascination of her own pastry creations, which also raises the health concern of refined sugar in ones diet. The issue of food illnesses such as bulimia in the teen years is connected to Felice as some of her friends suffering from this disease. This creates even more separation with her own family at this impressionable time her life since her mother’s life revolves around baking and creating her pastry offerings. It seems as if Avis knows no other way to show her love and dedication to her own family. Depression, dependance, the pains of growing up and establishing ones own identity are all touched on in this family story. Felice usually reenters her family’s life only as she needs money and connection. She is not dependable and shows up late, or not at all for appointments with her mother and family. Can this distance be bridged and what happens when children strike out and rebel at a very young age? There are many scenarios painted in this novel and some may come close to home for families struggling with a rebellious child in their own family. Birds of Paradise is a well written novel which has may have an impact on those who read it. I will give this book a 4.0 rating.
  • (5/5)
    I’ll leave other print reviews to give you plot summaries and to gush about the fascinating story and the author’s rich, emotion-ladened, authentic, and nuanced prose. This review is focused primarily on the audiobook edition. Tamara Marston’s reading of Diana Abu-Jaber’s Birds of Paradise is exactly what you’d want for this specific book. It’s a perfect match—outstanding reader, outstanding novel. I am an avid print book reader and audiobook listener. I read on average three to four print books a month. During my working years, I had very long daily commutes, and in my early retirement years I had even longer commutes to visit and care for elderly parents. Audiobooks have been an essential addition to my life. In fact, I’ve been listening to commercial audiobooks since the early days when they were available from only one major vendor and I had to rent them through the U.S. mail from the company that produced them. I must have listened to more than a thousand over the last 35 years. If there is one important lesson I’ve learned, it is that the quality of the reader’s performance is absolutely crucial. I know my favorite readers just as well as I know my favorite authors. I generally browse for print books by favorite authors, but when I am selecting audiobooks, I often browse first by favorite readers. I took a chance with this unfamiliar author and reader, but I was astonished—no, truly blown away—by the quality of this work. What happens here is pure synergy!I hope this review does not sound too over-the-top…but that is exactly how I feel about this work. I’m positively glowing and floating through my day after finishing the novel. I am definitely going to add Tamara Marston to my list of outstanding readers, and I am definitely going to add Abu-Jaber to my list of favorite authors. As an important added comment, I listened to most of this book while accompanying my husband on a car trip to visit family 400 miles away. My husband is the type of man who is into vintage planes and automobiles, politics, and economics…he almost never reads fiction and has no opinions about literature one way or the other. I’m pleased to say that he, too, was spellbound by this book. Now, that says a lot about the author and the reader.
  • (5/5)
    Diana Abu-Jaber captures a family’s grief and a cookie’s soulTolstoy said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In Diana Abu-Jaber’s fourth novel, the Muirs of Miami are a deeply unhappy family. The tale is set in the days leading up to daughter, Felice’s, 18th birthday. Her mother, Avis, is a talented pastry chef, running a high-end bakery out of their home. Her father, Brian, is a successful real estate attorney. And at 23, her older brother, Stanley, is running a business he’s passionate about. These are privileged people with every reason to be content, but when Felice was only 13 years old, she ran away from home. She didn’t run far. She’s still in Miami, a “beach kid,” sleeping outdoors or squatting in houses. But there’s been virtually no contact with her family since she left, and it’s torn them apart.This is not a story of abuse or addiction—although there is abuse and there are drugs in her story. No, Felice was a supremely lovely and loved child being raised by flawed, but essentially good, people. And part of the suspense of the novel is the motivation for Felice’s actions. No one can understand why this young girl went off the rails. At one point her father asks himself:“What. What should he and Avis have done? Put their girl’s face on a milk carton?Missing: Felice Muir, Age 13.Kidnapped by herself.Motivation: UnknownWhat child does such a thing as that? Could she have been that unhappy?”The story is told in chapters that alternate between Avis’s, Brian’s, and Felice’s points of view, until Stanley has his say near the novel’s end. Based on this overly simple summary, Birds of Paradise sounds like a Lifetime original movie. Nothing could be further from the truth! Diana Abu-Jaber is a lush, evocative novelist capturing subtle emotions and interplays amongst her characters. There is all the grief and confusion you would expect of a family in this situation, but beyond the family unit, there are dangerous friendships and complicated interactions. There is so much happening on so many levels. Abu-Jaber captures the atmospheric otherness of her setting. (“She remembers how Hannah hated everything about Miami—even some of the best things, like the hooked-nosed white ibises roaming around in the grass and the flowers that blew up into winter foliage—a tree or bush opening overnight into flower like perfumed flames.”) And not just the exotic physicality of the place, but the uneasy clash of cultures. (“She’d felt disorientation strong as vertigo after they’d first moved to Miami—as if her magnetic poles had been switched. The drivers were appalling, punching their horns, running reds, cutting each other off like sworn enemies. There were certain shops and restaurants one would not wish to enter unless one spoke Spanish—and not at her halting, college intermediate level, either. There were whole neighborhoods and sections of town where she felt scrutinized and sized up. How many times had she waited by counters while salespeople went in search of ‘the one’ who spoke English?”)Another reviewer described the novel as layered, and that is apt. On the surface, you have the story being told, the family drama. But in other layers, you’ve got the all kinds of subtext—the psychology of the characters, the social commentary, the time and the place. And there are external stressors ratcheting up tension as the book progresses: a husband’s temptation, the danger of the streets, financial crises, and physical jeopardy.The language is as sumptuous as the rich desserts that Avis creates, and fans of the author won’t be surprised by the attention she lavishes on food within the text. Again, beyond mere description, the reader must ponder what is being said about sustenance, nurturing, creativity, privilege. The novel’s opening sentence reads, “A cookie, Avis told her children, is a soul.” Things are often more than they may at first seem in Abu-Jaber’s adept hands. A cookie is more than a cookie, and a family is more than the tragedy that defines it.