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Reviewed by Charles Remington for Readers' Favorite
Memphis Clarke does not recall dying but finds himself in what looks remarkably like a dentist’s waiting room. Paradise Door by Brent Shibla tells how Memphis is soon asked to complete some paperwork and is then directed to a lift that disgorges him into the lobby of a top-class hotel. Confused and a little disorientated, he is unable to get any information about where he is or why he is there, so having been allocated a comfortable loft-style apartment, he decides to go with the flow for the time being. He takes a trip out of the hotel, cycling into the town which, to some extent, resembles New Jersey. Heading towards a brightly-lit area, he finds a bar which is just his sort of place. A band, led by a talented pianist, is playing jazz on a small stage, and a sizeable crowd fronts a long counter. He orders a drink and for a few hours falls into conversation with the local clientele, but gains no further information regarding his whereabouts. The following day, while looking around the hotel, he wanders out into a tulip garden, and finding an oddly-placed door, enters a room filled with strangely familiar furnishings and an old-style TV that suddenly starts to flick through channels, showing parts of his life. Slowly he begins to gain some understanding of why he may be in this strange but yet familiar place, and as his explorations take him further and further afield, the storyline proceeds to a rather surprising ending.
I quite enjoyed Paradise Door by Brent Shibla. It is an unusual novel that tackles some difficult themes - subject matters that seem to lay the author’s psyche bare. It is harrowing in places but also filled with joyful, if somewhat self-indulgent, scenes of holidays, night clubs, dancing, and much drinking. Peopled with solid, believable characters, the narrative moves along at a brisk pace, leading to an unexpected but ultimately satisfying conclusion. The book is difficult to pigeon-hole - the nearest comparison I can think of is Michael Frayn’s brilliant novel Sweet Dreams. Paradise Door is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.