State of Paradise: A Novel (Hardcover)

State of Paradise: A Novel By Laura van den Berg Cover Image
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July 2024 Indie Next List

“Unnerving, odd, sometimes spooky, sometimes very funny. Here is a world of warped reality — by grief, by pandemic, by Major Weather Events, by technology, sometimes even by our own minds. This is one of Laura van den Berg’s best.”
— Santiago Nocera, Greedy Reads, Baltimore, MD


Named a Most Anticipated Book by TIME, Oprah Daily, Esquire, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Marie Claire, ELLE, Bustle, and Lit Hub. An Apple Best Book of July.

"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

"At once an adventure and a treat, a deep study of Florida's psychogeography and a creepy story about ghosts, missing people, cults, and technology. Don't miss it." —Gabino Iglesias, NPR

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

It’s another summer in a small Florida town. After an illness that vanishes as mysteriously as it arrived, everything appears to be getting back to normal: soul-crushing heat, torrential downpours, sinkholes swallowing the earth, ominous cats, a world-bending virtual reality device being handed out by a company called ELECTRA, and an increasing number of posters dotting the streets with the faces of missing citizens. Living in her mother’s home, a ghostwriter for a famous thriller author tracks the eerie changes. On top of everything else, she’s contending with family secrets, spotty memories of her troubled youth, a burgeoning cult in the living room, and the alarming expansion of her own belly button.

Then, during a violent rainstorm, her sister goes missing. She returns a few days later, sprawled on their mother’s lawn and speaking of another dimension. Now the ghostwriter must investigate not only what happened to her sister and the other missing people but also the uncanny connections between ELECTRA, the famous author she works for, and reality itself.

A sticky, rain-soaked reckoning with the elusive nature of selfhood and storytelling, Laura van den Berg’s State of Paradise is an intricate and page-turning whirlwind. With inimitable control and thrilling style, van den Berg reaches deep into the void and returns with a story far stranger than either reality or fiction.

About the Author

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.

Praise For…

"The novel form may be a 'pretty outdated technology,' as the narrator laments. But once a writer like van den Berg gets its creaky gears turning, it can still do what it’s always done best: reflect our selves back at us and into the world, in all their wildness and weirdness." —Ruth Franklin, The New York Times

"With exquisite prose, smart lines on every page, a building sense of growing strangeness tinged with dread, and surprises all the way to the end, State of Paradise might be van den Berg's best novel so far -- and that's saying a lot. A narrative that constantly feels like its dancing on the border between fiction and nonfiction despite all the weirdness it contains, this book is at once an adventure and a treat, a deep study of Florida's psychogeography and a creepy story about ghosts, missing people, cults, and technology. Don't miss it." —Gabino Iglesias, NPR

van den Berg has presented Florida not as a freak-show meme generator but as a serious place, populated by authentic figures with recognizably human concerns. . . a macabre tale in which the living interact with the dead and yet the eeriest souls are those with a pulse." —Jake Cline, The Washington Post

"A page-turning story about the challenges of learning to let go. . . Wonderfully weird." —Shannon Carlin, TIME

"The summer’s sweatiest novel . . . The author’s inimitable talents shine in this spiky and sinister Floridian fever dream." Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

“[A] strange, enthralling novel.” Lauren Puckett-Pope, ELLE

"Let State of Paradise into your life and its sticky, humid setting and twisty mystery will consume you even more than the dew point outside. The page-turner follows a thriller ghostwriter living out of her mother's Florida home in a town where an odd company called ELECTRA seems to have moved in, taken over, and infiltrated its residences by passing out strange VR devices. When her sister disappears, the writer goes in search of her, and finds more than one conspiracy to dig into." —Sadie Bell, Marie Claire

"Van den Berg holds a funhouse mirror up to a reality that many of us will recognize, one where multiple layers of mounting disaster—personal, political, climactic, and technological—whirl together into a perfect, uncanny storm." —Charley Burlock, Oprah Daily

"Not that State of Paradise is only about Florida. It’s also a sharply observed look at life after the COVID pandemic, a profound study of loss and grief, a ghost story, a reflection on the relationship between narrative and reality — and, often, it’s mordantly funny." —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

"Van den Berg, a born and bred Floridian, is rare among writers in making us viscerally grasp the enormity of ecological phenomena . . . Weird and eerie details blossom gradually, then suddenly, like mushrooms after a storm . . . this bottomlessly beguiling novel delivers us unto an unsettled vista where, quoth the ghostwriter, 'Everything is not as it seems.'” —Rhoda Feng, The Boston Globe

"The eccentricities of the Sunshine State are on full display."—Theara Coleman, The Week

"van den Berg skillfully swerves through trauma, mental illness, and memory, shifting from autofiction to thriller. This book feels like a powerful hurricane." Lauren LeBlanc, The Boston Globe

"[A] darkly comic exercise in magic realism. . . A frequently surreal study of American life in the 2020s, State of Paradise takes common anxieties and amplifies them in a fun-house mirror, where they become both funny and a bit terrifying. It’s a one-of-a-kind treat for adventurous readers." Apple Books

"Few people do weird as well as Laura van den Berg, and her latest really brings it . . . Flirting with metafiction, and just slightly off-kilter from reality, State of Paradise is a hurricane of a book." Arianna Rebollini, Bustle

"Eerie in the best of ways . . . profound and powerful." —Brian Gresko, Electric Literature

Of her now seven books of fiction, this one is arguably her funniest, most playful, most innovative, and possibly my favorite . . . The book becomes not only an evocation of that year when so many of us stopped our lives, but also of dreams personal and universal, of pilgrimages, apocalypses, traumas, and tales." Deb Olin Unferth, BOMB

"I will go wherever Laura van den Berg and her eerie, uncanny imagination lead, even to the much-maligned sunshine state in storm season . . . A wry, surreal, lushly atmospheric metafictional mystery, I fell under the swampy spell of this novel from the get-go." Dan Sheehan, Lit Hub

"Subtly speculative . . . deadpan hilarious . . . van den Berg takes measure of the pandemic’s hidden impacts, escalating ecothreats, family traumas, and the nature of stories and our profound reliance on them." —Booklist (starred review)

“Readers who aren’t sure how a science fiction plot will meld with writing that sometimes reads almost like memoir needn’t worry. This is van den Berg, whose Lynchian sensibility and cool yet impassioned eye is somehow the perfect choice to examine what might be America’s most eccentric state and the ways that 'we are called back to the things we most want to flee' . . . If speculative autofiction wasn’t a thing, it is now; van den Berg is a pioneer.” Kirkus (starred review)

"The very weirdness of [van den Berg's] narratives forc[e] readers to rethink present-day reality . . . An unputdownable novel of a world spinning rapidly out of control." Library Journal (starred review)

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374612207
ISBN-10: 037461220X
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: July 9th, 2024
Pages: 224
Language: English