This Other Eden: Paradise found and paradise lost

News | February 15, 2024

This Other Eden by Paul Harding is the 2024 All St. Paul Reads book.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Harding takes readers on a deep dive into the lives of the families living on Apple Island, just a few hundred miles off the coast of Maine. Spend time with three generations of Honeys, the Lark family, Zachary Hand to God Proverbs, a set of twin sisters raising three adopted children, and the missionary who helps educate the island’s extraordinary children. These few families have lived on the island for generations, all beginning with the two Honeys who first arrived with a pocketful of seeds and a dream.

As tourism becomes a focus in Maine and the idea of eugenics is on the rise, the state turns its sights to Apple Island, envisioning a hotel and other tourist destinations. But what to do with the current inhabitants of the island? What happens when those from the mainland step in to “help” the Apple Island inhabitants they know little about?

This historical fiction centers on the real-life Malaga Island, whose inhabitants, a mixed-race fishing community, were forcibly removed by state order beginning in 1911. Visible from the coast of Maine, the small Malaga Island, only half of a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, now sits as a public reserve and important historical site. To this day, it remains undeveloped and uninhabited.

Author Paul Harding weaves elegant prose and vivid descriptive passages together to bring readers right onto the island, becoming closely acquainted with the community. You’ll celebrate the joys of a farewell dinner and ache over the losses experienced by these families. You can practically feel the ground beneath your feet, smell the breeze as it blows through the apple trees, and hear the rushing of water and the songs of the women as they work. You may even find yourself holding your breath as the waters rise higher and higher during a storm of Biblical proportions.

Book Corner team member Marcia Robertson knew quickly that This Other Eden would be a perfect fit for the Book Corner.

“This is one of the few books that as soon as I put it down, it didn’t leave my mind. I wanted to know more. The writing is beautiful and flows like poetry. When I was reading, I was on the island and part of that community. There are also elements of suspense throughout the storyline. The narrative didn’t move in the direction I originally anticipated,” Marcia said. “What stands out to me about the story is this community’s acceptance of each other exactly as they are and the relationships that develop from that. They aren’t trying to change each other to be something else. Like any compelling story, you get snippets of the characters here and there, of how they relate to each other, and the life of the characters, your familiarity with them keeps growing throughout the story, allowing you to get to know them as people more fully.”

For All St. Paul Reads, the committee looks for titles that speak to a wide variety of ages and experiences, a compelling story, and a faith message. The committee is committed to honoring both fiction and non-fiction titles and selecting works that explore a contemporary issue and broaden perspectives.

Leave a Comment