Grisham Loudermilk and Ariane Thevenot are getting married. But Grisham's
cousin Adlai Birdsong falls in love with Ariane, who is plagued by Grisham's
apparent indifference, which isn't surprising given his fling with Miranda
who travels around the country pulling an Airstream trailer.
John Dufresne's cast of interesting and imaginative characters include
Earlene Fontana, song lyricist, and her intuitive son Boudou (rhymes with
"who-do"); Adlai's parents Benning (Grisham's aunt) and Royce, who is
struggling with Alzheimer's; Tous-les-Deux, the Siamese Twins; Delano
Smith, who paints murals in town; and bigamist Alvin Lee Loudermilk, cousin
and founder of the Fire Baptized Evangelical Temple of the King. All gather
at the ancestral home of Paradise, located in the town of Shiver-de-Freeze,
to celebrate the upcoming nuptials.
Utilizing an omniscient point of view to the fullest, Dufresne (Louisiana Power and Light, Love Warps the Mind a Little) bounces from
one character's viewpoint to another, and even finds many opportunities to
use his own. In describing Shiver-de-Freeze, he writes: "We call this part
of town Mount of Olives on account of the old Indian Burial Mound."
At times, Deep in the Shade of Paradise seems like a fiction-writing
workshop with Earlene's brainstorming lists
THINGS THAT FLY: monarch butterflies, dreams, rumors, pilots,
pollen, sounds to our ears, light to our eyes, prayer to our gods, planets
in the firmament, birds in the air, their songs, the wind, the clouds, the
and actual writing prompts with space within the book for
readers who feel like contributing. Dufresne also includes bits of
information about himself within the text and often addresses the reader.
The author mentions early that Deep in the Shade of Paradise is a story
about love and marriage. Love and marriage may be the focus, but it is chock
full of the unusual ways in which friends and relatives died, with a sense
of detachment and hilarity:
Benning said, "My cousin Thalassa Meades her little baby boy to the hogs. Nothing but bones and scalp in the
Deep in the Shade of Paradise is a perfect example of the type
of humorous Southern literature being produced today (Fannie Flagg, Bailey
White, etc.). However, Dufresne's onslaught of insignificant characters and
his jumping from one person's viewpoint to the next can leave the reader
confused and the story disjointed. Humorous situations and interesting
secondary characters are a welcome plus in most novels, but there comes a
point when enough is enough.