Paradise opens with one of Morrison’s most raw and Faulknerian scenes: early one morning in 1976, nine men from the town of Ruby, Oklahoma—population 360, all black—unleash an assault upon a convent seventeen miles away. The misfortunes suffered in Ruby, the men believe, come from the convent women, who are rumored to engage in witchcraft and abortion. From this fateful moment of collision, Morrison takes us back to the town’s origins in 1890, when it was founded by former slaves. She then guides us through Ruby’s tumultuous journey through the twentieth century, as generations are born and lost, as racial turmoil shakes the nation. As time wears on, the residents of Ruby become ever more convinced that they must isolate themselves in order to preserve their freedom and dignity. Richly imagined and elegantly composed, Paradise is a deeply resonant allegory, one of Morrison’s most ambitious works.
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