State of Paradise

A Novel

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Pub Date Jul 09 2024 | Archive Date Aug 09 2024

Description

"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." —Mona Awad, author of Rouge

"A wholly original and epically engaging novel from a master of episodic oddity." —Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch

A heart-racing fun house of uncanniness hidden in Florida’s underbelly from the celebrated Laura van den Berg


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.

"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." —Mona Awad, author of Rouge

"A...


A Note From the Publisher

Laura van den Berg is the author of the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, The Isle of Youth, and 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 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and named a best book of 2018 by more than a dozen publications. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Strauss Living Award and a Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, a PEN/O. Henry Award, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and is a two-time finalist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.

Laura van den Berg is the author of the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, The Isle of Youth, and I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, which was named one the ten...


Advance Praise

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"Like a summer coastal storm, State of...


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780374612207
PRICE $27.00 (USD)
PAGES 224

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Average rating from 21 members


Featured Reviews

I've loved Laura van den Berg's work for years, and her latest did not disappoint. The novel tells the story of a ghostwriter who moves back home to Florida during the pandemic, then *things* happen. For one, there's the VR tech that makes people act oddly. Our narrator's sister is an avid user, often encountering their dead father in this virtual world. The state in general seems to be going through an upheaval. There's also the narrator's stay at the Institute when she was younger. The novel has speculative elements that I won't totally spoil, and which are situated close enough to our present to feel almost real, possible. The chapters have a diaristic feel (the novel was once called Florida Diary, which is mentioned in the text), and the characters are perfectly idiosyncratic. I loved spending time in this world, devoured this book in nearly one sitting.

Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!

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"State of Paradise" is a wonderfully strange and compelling read. It includes pandemic time, virtual escapism, cults, addiction, family dysfunction and rich atmosphere. If you love Florida (which I do) the setting and descriptions will feel like home. If you love inventiveness, and the turn of a gorgeous sentence, you will not be able to put this down. Highly recommended. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

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laura van den berg’s STATE OF PARADISE applies van den berg’s signature uncanny style to a post-Pandemic Florida.

a ghostwriter finds herself stuck living with her mother in Florida after the deep throes of the pandemic. amidst destructive storms, the woman discovers the strange reality of her childhood memories as she begins uncovering her family’s secrets and fissures. her mother becomes involved in an ominous cult while her sister loses herself in a mysterious virtual reality headset. the surrounding town increasingly mirrors these uncanny happenings and soon, she is down a rabbit hole of perception, place, and reality.

STATE OF PARADISE addresses the malleability of perception and grief in a “post”-pandemic world. i typically avoid new pandemic books, but van den berg’s writing is anything but pandering. instead, her observations are strikingly original and profound. STATE OF PARADISE is brimming with sentience — the setting visceral, the implications unsettling, the past ghostly. somewhere among the floods, sinkholes, and wormholes, i was left gutted, but also with a new outlook on the buried grief of 2020 and beyond.

STATE OF PARADISE is about so much more than the pandemic. it is ghost story, family drama, and funhouse mirror. i don’t know how van den berg pulled this genre-defying story off, but i’m glad she did, because she captures contemporary existentialism like no other

5/5 ⭐️

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Laura van den Berg can do no wrong!

She's quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. "State of Paradise" is a simple and yet stunning novel. I love her previous books and this one is no exception. I love how she weaves such off-the-wall topics (oddball scenarios/characters) with serious topics like depression and suicidal ideation. I loved how we don't even know anyone's name throughout this novel, not even the protagonist. This book also felt like non-fiction. I also liked how dark and absurd it was. One-minute you're laughing, and the next you're moved by so many different emotions. This book is hard to explain but I will tell you one thing: its brilliant and unforgettable. Laura van den Berg makes the mundane things in life feel extraordinary.

Thank you, Netgalley and FSG for the digital ARC.

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Laura van den Berg is a chronicler of the strange corners of our world, the possibilities of ghostly liminal spaces and feelings and experiences that could be lurking just around the corner from the universe we all inhabit. STATE OF PARADISE is a thrillingly odd book, readable in a sitting or two but worth pondering for weeks after. It takes place in a pandemic-struck Florida that looks not unlike our own, featuring a willfully ignorant governor and natural disasters flooding the scene, but also a VisionPro-esque VR headset that threatens the stability of the narrator's reality. It's a great, great look at reality and perception, at storytelling and the omnipresence of ghosts. I loved it, as did the other members of my household who all read it in the space of a long weekend!

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State of Paradise starts off in a familiar place in the recent past; a ghostwriter and her husband move to her childhood home in Florida during the early days of the pandemic. This quickly evolves into something much more surreal and wonderful in this fantastically weird novel that I couldn’t put down and was lucky enough to read in the Miami sun.

I would be hesitant to describe the plot, even if I could, because it was such an enthralling experience to see how this story unfolds. There’s the mysterious author the main character writes for, a sister that’s increasingly escaping into a virtual world to outrun her grief, bodies changing in strange ways after infection, and this is all set during an epic deluge that might wash away an entire state.

Can’t recommend this one enough and honestly can’t wait to read it again. Somehow this was also the first book I have read by van den Berg and I look forward to diving into her back catalogue as soon as possible. Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for providing the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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