Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I have been thinking about this lately because I have been reading Diana Abu-Jaber's new novel Birds of Paradise—an ambitious book featuring multiple points of view, the business of real estate, the artistry of exotic pastries, and a run-away teen. Much is broken and strained in this family and Abu-Jaber takes her readers into complex emotional territory as the story unfolds.
But what seduces me most throughout this novel is the command that Abu-Jaber demonstrates for Miami. Her knowledge of this landscape is unimpeachable, her ability to get us into the physical stuff of it all her great achievement in Birds of Paradise. I could almost hear her exhale when the landscape came into view—the gardens, the streetscapes. I could feel her joy in making these scenes.
I share a single example:
The scent of jasmine drifts into the windows. Songbird season is over. No more gardenias: hurricane season. The trees have grown dense as rooftops; the plumeria hold their flower-tipped branches up like brides with golden corsages. Avis sits hunched forward, clinging to her tin: she can feel the metal chill through her blouse, all the way to the pit of her stomach. She'd forgotten to eat again.