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Paradise Lost, And Found

Psychological insights propel plot to unexpected transformation and conclusion.

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On the surface, the wealthy seem to have it all. Good looks, good jobs, lots of money, and lots of time for leisure. And, of course, lots of demands. Demands for the best service, the best cars, the most exclusive clubs. Hollywood lawyer Connie Constantine is one of these people. She has it all, but wants more. She demands perfection of herself, her staff, her husband and her daughter. It’s unfortunate for her that nothing in her life is actually ideal.

Connie takes her college-age daughter Holly to an exclusive Montecito resort in hopes that Holly will finally find an exercise regimen that will help her lose that extra weight and turn her into the assertive girl that Connie wants her to be. Instead, Holly and a fellow guest, actress Vanessa Wyatt, are kidnaped by a fringe group that no one has ever heard of.

The greatest strength of this novel is Cannon’s marvelous psychological insights. By rotating points of view, we are allowed to see the complexities of individual characters and their relationships with each other. While most of the characters shine on their own, it is in the complexities of damaged relationships that Cannon reveals her greatest insights into human nature. The two best developed pairs of characters are Holly and her mother, and the two kidnappers.

Connie’s personal story is told through flashback, and traces the troubled relationship between herself and her husband as well as Connie and her daughter. As the affair drags on through the week, Connie’s perfect life begins to unravel thread by thread. However, as odd as it sounds, while Connie is falling apart, the kidnaped Holly is pulling herself together. Her ordeal allows her to examine her own life and develop her own inner strength, strength that she was not even aware she had. After gaining her own release, Holly returns a changed woman, one who is capable of standing up to the bully in her own mother and getting what she wants.

Paradise Lost
Taffy Cannon
Daniel, John & Co. Publishers
ISBN: 9781880284803
Trade Paper, 282pp

Cannon also takes us on the downward spiral of the two kidnappers. These are two men who also had it all — and should have kept it. But their own arrogance has set a trap for them. Jackson and Cole are two college buddies who think they are smarter than everyone else. But high IQs do not necessarily translate into common sense, and their attempt to pull off the perfect crime is a perfect disaster. While Holly gains strength, these two make every mistake in the book and let it all slip away. The twists and turns of their convoluted plans create the most compelling, and least palatable characters. The reason for their arrogance and eventual downfall is the best surprise in the entire novel.

In Cannon’s work, paradise is lost by some, but gained by others. In neither case is Paradise what it seems to be.

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