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


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.


The best book I've read this summer. Choosing it for our senior book club choice. Maybe you have to experienced some deaths in the family before you can appreciate this 24 hour of waiting for death to happen. Having three daughters with different personalities and a grandaughter age 23 that doesn't believe in marriage, I could relate to every word. How like daughters it is that when the end came they are out chasing a dog! Ike was so funny facing the inevitable. When he said is there any ice cream in this establishment, I laughed out loud.I too want to die eating ice cream.


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


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.


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

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.


I really, really liked this book. There was only one segment in the middle where it seemed to get a little slow, but it turned out the theme was just developing - and both that and the ending were truly excellent. Whether to get married and what you may gain and/or lose of yourself by taking either path were examined by the two ends of 3 generations of a family, and the particulars of the story hit very close to home for me - really great read.


A 2 star Lifetime movie.

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.

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


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.

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.


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.


While seventy-seven year old Ike Robison is dying in his bedroom upstairs, his wife Anna defends the citadel of their marriage from the ill-considered, albeit loving invasion, of their three middle-aged daughters and twenty-three year old granddaughter. Helen, Claire and Susanna claim they have come to help their mother, Anna, and to cheer their father towards recuperation. Although, it appears to their mother that her daughters have arrived only to raid her refrigerator and to gripe and snipe at each other about their recollections of old rivalries. Bright, fresh-faced Christine arrives and presents the family with a new set of problems - her impending pregnancy and forthcoming divorce. Anna, herself, is reflecting on her life. Her life has been difficult for Anna, her marriage to Ike harshly violent, uprooting and cold. Unburdened by sentiment, Anna acknowledges to herself that she is angry at her husband for abandoning her and that her daughters remain so dependent, even into their adulthood.Despite the simmering anger and resentment which is directed at her husband, Anna has grown used to Ike and truly can't imagine her life without him. She is confronted by her own frailties, and the imminence of Ike's death has left her in a devastating conundrum about what she should do next. Anna ultimately achieves a quiet certainty about her right to what's left of her world.I thought this was a very good book. It was an easy read for me, and even though nothing earth-shattering happened in the plot, At Paradise Gate by Jane Smiley was still a very pleasant read. This book was filled with moments of quiet introspection, rather than huge cliffhanger plot twists. The writing was beautiful and I give this book an A+! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary fiction.

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