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The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli

The Last Good Paradise

by Tatjana Soli

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Now their life in tatters, Richard went off diving. Where had that protective, nurturing Richard gone? Amusing himself despite her torment. Ten years, every year since law school, lopped off. Ann worried because she knew from long professional experience that relationships only continued on some basis of parity, to be determined by the two parties. Where was that parity now? – from The Last Good Paradise –

Ann is a lawyer who is disillusioned by her corporate position and eager to support Richard, her husband, in opening their own restaurant. But when their life comes apart at the seams, they decide to empty their accounts. leave responsibility behind, and seek escape in a tropical paradise. Once on a remote island, they connect with a burnt out rock star and his young girlfriend, the flawed owner of the resort who has deep regrets about the path his life has taken, and a seemingly discordant couple who are native to the island and help run the resort.

Tatjana Soli’s newest novel explores the idea of failed dreams, the search for an ever more illusive paradise, and the pull of the technical, fast paced corporate world of computers, high finance, and success.

Richard and Ann seem like the typical all-American couple who are set on a path to success only to have their dreams shattered. When they escape their “real” lives to find freedom in “paradise,” they discover that paradise is not defined by ocean breezes, blue waters and endless sunny days. Rather, the idea of happiness and finding paradise is an inner journey and is linked to the connections we have with others.

Soli introduces some quirky characters and intersperses humor with tragedy to engage her readers in this modern tale of a group of people searching for meaning in a complex and isolating world.

I was prepared to love this novel because I adored The Lotus Eaters> by this same author (read my review). But despite good writing, I felt a bit disconnected from the characters who at times felt oversimplified. I wondered if Soli intended to create caricatures to emphasis the outrageous and amplify her characters’ personalities. Instead the novel feel a bit flat for me. ( )
  writestuff | May 20, 2015 |
Tatjana Soli has written three very different novels, The Lotus Eaters, The Forgetting Tree, and now The Last Good Paradise. As disparate as they are in setting and plot, they share a depth of story and an intense examination of the ways people, even very different people, connect to one another.

Who hasn't wanted to get away from it all? To chuck job and responsibilities and escape to paradise? Ann and Richard are completely consumed by the stress of their lives. Ann is a cutthroat junior attorney in the midst of fertility problems. Her husband Richard is a chef in the final stages of opening the decades-long wished for restaurant of his own with his best friend and fellow chef, Javi. In the midst that is, until it comes out that Javi owes money to loan sharks and his ex is going after his assets, including the restaurant, claiming he hid money from her. The problem is that the money is actually all Ann and Richard's but that won't change anything. So Ann does something shockingly unethical. She withdraws all the money in their account and she and Richard run away to a remote coral atoll in French Polynesia. They land at an exclusive and wildly expensive resort that is unplugged from technology and seemingly outside the rest of the world's reach. But they are not alone there. Also at the resort is Dex Cooper, an aging rock star; Wende, his nubile and scantily clad young muse; Loren, the French resort owner who is hiding from his own failures; Titi, the cook and caretaker; and Cooked, her fiancé, a would-be environmental activist and eco-terrorist and the resort's boatman.

Each of the people on the island has his or her own agenda, many of them running away from unpleasant realities. They are all their own personal islands when Ann and Richard first arrive but they slowly develop connections to each other, fueled first by raging undercurrents of lust and sexual awareness but eventually by understanding and caring. As each character works through the death of long held dreams, they face the uncertainty and difficulty of making changes and finding new directions, even when those changes will make them happier than their dreams once did. It is through the solitude and introspection of weeks at the resort that the characters really learn what they want from life, how to live it to their best ability, how to make a difference in the world, and how to move forward with their new, more fulfilling hopes and dreams.

Soli is very good at drawing complex and complete characters, doing a wonderful job with her large cast here. All of them are floundering, trying to find their ways, which they will only find in concert with each other. Their coming together as a united group is slow and organic in the first half of the novel, but still shows and celebrates their personal growth within the collective. The plot picks up speed in the second half of the story and the twists and turns to the end are both unexpected and perfectly true to the book. The narration shifts from each of the ensemble characters in turn, spinning through all of them, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph, giving necessary perspective into the growth of the whole. Like the secret webcam trained on a piece of deserted beach on the backside of the island that Loren has hooked up and Ann finds by accident, the story exudes peace and allure for the untouched tranquility of a hidden paradise, hidden from the world, hidden from one's personal view, hidden deep in the heart. None of us can ever truly unplug from the world and our fellow human beings no matter how far afield we go. The writing is smooth and as stunning as the paradise Soli has created. This novel will make you think about regrets, what truly makes a person happy, and what obligations we have to others as members of the same tribe and to the world as our collective home. ( )
  whitreidtan | Feb 9, 2015 |
The Last Good Paradise” has an interesting premise which drew me in, but it rapidly deteriorated and ultimately failed to deliver. The setting is a coral atoll near Tahiti where Loren, a French expat, has established a resort, “Sauvage.” This resort promises nothing but natural beauty and solitude, remote and disconnected from the modern world (no electricity, no phone, no radio.) Two natives, Cooker and Titi, provide all the services and keep the resort in operation. The thing is, the resort is expensive, $2,000 a day, to escape from civilization.

Only two couples are in residence. Ann and Richard are on the run from a financial disaster in L.A. Dex is an aging, dissipated Rock Star, with his “muse” and girlfriend, Wende, a much younger object of physical beauty and animal magnetism.

Gradually, the profound difficulties, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of each person are exposed. The problem is that nothing much happens and the whole scenario becomes boring. At first I thought some editing might have saved this novel. However, by the middle of this 306-page book I gave up hoping for the plot to evolve. The promise of an entertaining or interesting story simply failed to deliver. The premise simply deteriorated into boring drivel (sorry, Ms. Soli) and did not justify the time spent reading it. ( )
1 vote brendajanefrank | Dec 6, 2014 |
Soli has written an entertaining, unpredictable tale about how people’s ideas about what will make them happy are often what prevent them from being happy. Full of entertaining characters and a lot of food and drink, she shows how economics and technology influence even our most basic choices. Set primarily in a resort on a remote island in the South Pacific, it aptly shows the human need for connection, and how being forced outside of our comfort zones can reveal what really matters to us. ( )
  eachurch | Nov 1, 2014 |
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"On a small, unnamed coral atoll in the South Pacific, a group of troubled dreamers must face the possibility that the hopes they've labored after so single-mindedly might not lead them to the happiness they feel they were promised"-- "From New York Times bestselling author, Tatjana Soli, comes The Last Good Paradise... On a small, unnamed coral atoll in the South Pacific, a group of troubled dreamers must face the possibility that the hopes they've labored after so single-mindedly might not lead them to the happiness they feel they were promised. Ann and Richard, an aspiring, Los Angeles power couple, are already sensing the cracks in their version of the American dream when their life unexpectedly implodes, leading them to brashly run away from home to a Robinson Crusoe idyll. Dex Cooper, lead singer of the rock band, Prospero, is facing his own slide from greatness, experimenting with artistic asceticism while accompanied by his sexy, young, and increasingly entrepreneurial muse, Wende. Loren, the French owner of the resort sauvage, has made his own Gauguin-like retreat from the world years before, only to find that the modern world has become impossible to disconnect from. Titi, descendent of Tahitian royalty, worker, and eventual inheritor of the resort, must fashion a vision of the island's future that includes its indigenous people, while her partner, Cooked, is torn between anarchy and lust. By turns funny and tragic, The Last Good Paradise explores our modern, complex and often, self-contradictory discontents, crafting an exhilarating story about our need to connect in an increasingly networked but isolating world. "--… (more)

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