Book Review: This Other Eden #Malaga Island #Maine #Historicalfiction #LiteraryFiction

This is a brilliant but heartwrenching story inspired by a real-life mixed-race island community off the coast of Maine–Malaga Island, from its settlement to its demise at the hands of the State of Maine. It is not a feel-good novel, but the true depiction of how a government can intervene without conscience and destroy a people. The book is full of biblical imagery, and the Island’s matriarch/prophet, Esther, who was raped by her own father and whose child is part of a story that evokes images of Moses, sees disaster coming.

Paul Harding’s ability to convey raw emotion is impressive and the audiobook version, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, is well done. The characters become so real and their resilience is amazing. To me, the island in the story, Apple Island, is a symbol of purity in a way, and the outside world is the sin that invades and destroys. The title, This Other Eden, is perfect for this book. The people of Apple Island have their own Eden, but the outside world sees only poverty and race. They want to take the island for themselves and turn it into a resort. The interference of the government in something so innocent, peaceful, and good can be summed up in this quote: “Soon enough, she thought. Soon enough, Pharaoh will come after us, like he always does.”

Sometimes books can give us an escape–a chance to relax, laugh, or fantasize. This is not such a book. It is a book that causes us to look at hard truths. It causes discomfort. It is the opposite of an escape. It is a reckoning. We need such books as these too.

I received a free copy of the audiobook from the publishers via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.


Paul Harding is the author of two novels about multiple generations of a New England family: Enon and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Tinkers. He teaches at Stony Brook Southampton.


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