The Paradise Guest House – Book Review and Giveaway

Paradise Guest HouseFor the last year, she played out every scenario in her mind: He would listen to her, he would rage, he would cry, he would hate her or love her. But he never walked away.  – from The Paradise Guest House –

At 23:05 Central Indonesian Time (15:05 UTC) on 12 October 2002, a suicide bomber entered Paddy’s Pub in the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali. He detonated the explosive device inside his backpack and customers immediately fled into the street where, twenty seconds later, a second bomb exploded just outside the Sari Club, located across the street from Paddy’s Pub. Two hundred and two people (including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesian, 27 Britons, 7 Americans and 5 Swedish citizens) were killed and 240 people were injured. Later, members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, were convicted for their role in the bombing. Osama Bin Laden stated that the Bali bombings were in direct retaliation for Indonesia’s support of the United States’ war on terror and Australia’s role in the liberation of East Timor.

Ellen Sussman has set her novel, The Paradise Guest House, against the backdrop of these horrifying events. Jamie is an American adventure guide who has survived the blasts and finds herself, a year later, returning to Bali for a one year memorial event. But the ceremony is only part of the reason she has decided to go back to the a place which still haunts her. Jamie hopes to find the man who saved her life, a man named Gabe who was an American ex-pat living in Bali and working as a teacher. What unfolds is a gentle story of love, forgiveness, and the difficult road to healing after unspeakable loss.

 The Paradise Guest House is beautifully crafted. Sussman’s descriptions of Bali – its lush jungles, sudden rainstorms, and spiritual people – deliver the reader into the heart of the island. The characters are well developed and include Jamie who lost her lover in the bombing and is looking for closure; Gabe who carries his own deep loss of a son and marriage and wants a new life on Bali; Nyoman, a local man whose wife perished in the bombing; and BamBang, a street child with a tendency towards theft. All the characters have had loss and are journeying towards recovery.

Sussman’s novel is a meditation of sorts on grief and our connection to others. It captures the shock and devastation post trauma, and the slow, often difficult, path towards healing. The book is also, at its heart, a love story. Despite the underlying sadness which echoes through the narrative, there is the bright light of hope, a glimpse of something better for these characters who stole my heart.

Readers who enjoy character driven novels with gorgeous writing will want to read The Paradise Guest House in one big gulp. I sped through this novel, fully immersing myself in its sensuous prose.

Highly recommended.


About the Author:

Ellen Sussman is the author of the novels French Lessons andOn a Night Like This, both national bestsellers. She has two daughters and lives with her husband in Northern California. Learn more about Sussman and her work by visiting the author’s website.

photo credit: Chris Hardy

How to Win a Copy of this Book:

  • Contest open from April 16th through April 23rd, 2013
  • US and Canada mailing addresses only.
  • Click here to take survey  to enter to win a copy of THE PARADISE GUEST HOUSE by Ellen Sussman.
  • I will draw ONE winner randomly and announce their name on my blog on April 24th, 2013.

tlclogoFTC Disclosure: Many thanks to Ballantine Books and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book for review and giveaway.


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  1. This sounds really good, especially since you rate it so highly.

  2. It’s amazing how different a book can sound from reviewer to reviewer. I hadn’t read positive reviews prior to yours, but now I’ve read yours all the context and relevance sounds interesting, important, and I’m seeing it in a whole new light. Great review!

    • Diane@BibliophilebytheSea on April 16, 2013 at 02:41

    This is one I hope to read in April or May and after yesterdays attack in Boston, it’s kind of chilling to think about some similarities.

    Glad you enjoyed reading this one.

  3. I’ve got to get back to the audio of this one since everyone loves the print version so much.

  4. I would love to read this one, and think that it sounds wonderful and compelling. I love the fact that it creates fictional characters and scenarios about a real event, and am going to be looking for it. I am glad that it really meshed well with you and that you gave it such a great review. I will add it to my list for my next shopping session. Wonderful review today!

    • Elisabeth on April 16, 2013 at 14:51

    I don’t tend to like this type of story, but based on your review I am going to add it to my TBR and hope to read it soon.

    • Bonnie on April 16, 2013 at 15:03

    You had me with character driven novel with gorgeous writing! I love novels that pull me in a reader.

    • susan on April 16, 2013 at 15:47

    It sounds captivating to me. Good review. thanks, will add to my TBR list

  5. I can see how this book would be a good read for this time after the Boston Marathon bombing. What a horrific experience!

    Thanks for being a part of this tour Wendy.

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