By Haga Thunder
Amazon Digital Services, Inc., $2.99, 18 pages
Remember the song “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” recorded by Belinda Carlisle in the 1980s? The narrator in Haga Thunder’s novella Leaving Paradise spends 17 days in his heaven on earth. And then he has to leave. More accurately, he must check out.
Thunder’s main character has lived a tough life. He grew up on a reservation with an absent father and a mom who sacrificed everything for her family. As an adult, he moves from place to place and is in and out of different motels and bars. When he finds his kindred spirit, it seems like his life may get easier at long last. Instead of staying in hellish rooms, the motel room they check into becomes an oasis, a haven, a paradise. But this heaven isn’t as nice as readers might expect. The lovers bar hop, smoke, drink, play poker, cheat others out of their money, roll joints and suffer from hangovers. They share 17 days of bliss until she disappears and he must check out and leave their paradise.
“Even a nightmare seemed better. Than being awake.”
Thunder challenges his audience to think about paradise in this life. People usually associate it with a place that is positive, peaceful, relaxing and worry free. But, as Thunder makes clear, somebody’s heaven on earth depends on where they are coming from and where they are going. When what you’ve left and what you are returning to is so bad, the time in between can be wonderful – even if it is pretty bad too. Paradise is relative.
Thunder uses a lot of periods. Sentences are broken up into several shorter parts. Some are just one word. This may seem annoying at first, but it has the stylistic effect of slowing readers down and forcing them to really think about what they are reading. Check out this novella to find out what happens when Thunder’s character leaves paradise.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin