At Paradise Gate

ISBN: 0736649026
ISBN 13: 9780736649025
By: Jane Smiley Anna Fields

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2003 Contemporary Contemporary Fiction Currently Reading Death Domestic Fiction Fiction Literary Fiction Mothers And Daughters To Read

Reader's Thoughts


This is a very moving story of a family in the last few hours of their father's life. While he is laying upstairs in the family home, the wife and her three grown daughters, along with an adult granddaughter grapple with memories. As the story unfolds, we learn about their lives growing up and as adults. We learn from the wife about her and her relationship with the husband and with the daughters. There are some enlightening revelations about generational differences as they deal with each other and the care of the father. I always love to read about family dynamics. Also, being in my 60's and having been married for 43 years myself, it was interesting to see the wife's perspectives of her life past, present and future.


This book was for a work book club. Even knowing I had to lead the group, I absolutely could not read this entire book. It has to be the most boring book I have attempted to read in a long time with no likeable characters. I ended up reading the last couple of pages just to know how it ended. Of course, it ended with death. Sigh.

Charles M.

Poignant read about Ike Robinson's last days, as his wife staves off attempts by his children to invade his privacy during this time. This is an early, little known book by this great author. reminds one of Agee's "Death in a Family".

Alexine Fleck

This is a really masterful book, but it was hard to finish. Everything is interior. EVERYTHING. There are some really amazing descriptions and insights, and I can see Jane Smiley really focusing on how small things feel. Sometimes, though, I just wanted there to be action amid all the reflection.

Kathie Kelly

If I were blessed with the ability to write, I would have wanted to write this book. It is filled with wisdom, love, and the dregs of life. It left me weeping and wondering how Jane Smiley could write my own story so accurately. I loved every page.


Definitely not my favorite of hers. The patriarch of a family is dying. His wife and their adult daughters and one adult granddaughter are talking, playing out underlying dynamics that have been in the family forever. All of their interaction is dialogue about memories/feelings taking place in one or two rooms of the house over a couple of days. It just didn't grab me.


I didn't think this book was terrible. It just felt like half way through some sort of plot should have developed. Maybe the ending was completely deep and fantastic, but it just didn't hold my interest. I have a hard time leaving books hanging in my head, but reaching for this one started feeling like a chore.

Don Jacobson

Anna Robison's three daughters loved to remember. The just remembered the same events differently. This early novel by Smiley doesn't measure up to her later work. All of the characters remain locked into their dysfunction to the end.

Mary sipp rigby

so so


She is such a talented writer. Always compelling and just complex enough without being austere. Liked A Thousand Acres a little better but then again so did the Nobel judges


With the characteristics of a short story, this novel seems like a forerunner to A Thousand Acres. The focus is on the musings and memories of 72-year-old Anna, married into a brutal family, and the relationships among her three daughters, husband, and granddaughter. One fault of this novel is the characters' speeches - to fancy and novelistic.

Shawnee Bowlin

I hate to give up on a book, so I read this one all the way through simply for that reason. For me, it was tedious. I was not fond of the way the main character strayed in her thinking. I give it an ok rating only because it is interesting to get a glimpse into the lives and experiences of others, even if it is boring overall. I would have preferred to have read more of the thoughts of the daughters and the father, especially.


Very good. Absolutely no action, but somehow I still wanted to know what was going to "happen." I actually think I liked it better than "A Thousand Acres." I loved hearing Anna think through her life and re-evaluate memories she hadn't revisited in years. Really makes you think about the process of aging and watching your children age with you.


Great writing, but severely lacking in action. Read a lot like a play. Which is fine, nothing against it, just not what I was in the mood for, I guess. I was in the mood for another "Age of Grief," I guess. I'll hit A Thousand Acres next, see what that's doing. Kind of raced through this one, to be honest. Got a little bored.


** spoiler alert ** Very different from my own family, but it rings true. End of life issues are real and poignant.

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