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This Vacant Paradise

A Novel

List Price: $15.95

January 10, 2012 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.8, 320 Pages | ISBN 9781582438054
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"Patterson beautifully parses the consequences of one woman's fall in this memorable, penetrating, fully achieved novel." —New York Times Book Review

Story Prize and California Book Award finalist Victoria Patterson revisits Newport Beach in This Vacant Paradise, examining the intersections of economics, class, race, sex, and family expectations during the mid-1990s. Esther lives with her grandmother, a virulent matriarch who controls her family with her wealth. Esther knows that an advantageous marriage replete with social standing, familial and peer approval, and financial rewards, will alleviate her struggles. College dropout, fashion boutique clerk, caregiver for a drug-addicted brother, Esther is also aware that beauty and an uncanny savvy foretell success. But she has been known to self-sabotage, and her peers and family are rooting for her not to blow it with her latest beau, especially since, at the ripe age of thirty-three, Esther’s desirability is on the cusp of decline.

All is well until she begins a tumultuous love affair with Charlie, a local college professor known for his unconventional ideals as much as for his golf game and good looks. He sets a fire inside Esther, sparking and delivering her—whether by choice or not—from the insular, safe, and stifling confines of societal expectations to an alternate, unglamorous, and indefinable course. The result is a stunning debut novel: a powerful work of fiction sure to provoke and engage.

VICTORIA PATTERSON is the author of the story collection Drift, which was a finalist for the Commonwealth Club Award and the Story Prize. Her work has appeared in various publications and journals, including the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, and The Southern Review. She lives with her family in Southern California and teaches through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and as a visiting assistant professor at UC Riverside. For more information, visit www.victoriapatterson.net.

Praise

“Patterson beautifully parses the consequences of one woman’s fall in this memorable, penetrating, fully achieved novel.” —New York Times Book Review

“Patterson writes with the exuberance of a natural storyteller. Her cast is rich, her narrative sinuous and masterfully structured.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“With echoes of a modern-day House of Mirth, Patterson’s elaborate tale examines the complexities and contradictions of society, family, and personal desire.” —Booklist

“Patterson’s debut novel is surprisingly sophisticated and nuanced… [with] echoes of Nathanael West and early Bruce Wagner.” —Publishers Weekly

This Vacant Paradise is that truly rare thing, a first novel that arrives with its writer working at the height of her intellectual gifts and creative powers.” —Jane Vandenburgh, author of Architecture of the Novel and A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century

“This is an exceptional novel, populated by several memorable and deftly rendered characters, each presented with nuance and compassion. Patterson taps deeply into their humanity, and the outcome is striking and dark.” —Michael Jaime-Becerra, author of This Time Tomorrow

This Vacant Paradise is an enthralling reinterpretation of The House of Mirth that reminds us that there are contemporary Lily Barts. Esther Wilson—what a character! Her sense of integrity and her desire for love are so understandable, yet they continually bring her into conflict with her materialistic family and acquaintances in Newport Beach. Has the last hundred years of advances in women’s rights made a difference to the woman raised to marry for money? Victoria Patterson asks this fascinating question, and the answer makes for a completely engaging novel.” —Alice Elliott Dark, author of Think of England and In the Gloaming

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