A firsthand account of California's Camp Fire, the nation's deadliest wildfire in a century. Paradise is an examination of what went wrong and how to avert future tragedies as the climate crisis unfolds.
[An] epic, tragic, terrifying story ... It’s hard to imagine who could tell it better ... To research her book, she moved part time to Paradise; she enrolled in a professional firefighting academy to better understand wildfire. Above all, she talked to people ... Johnson skillfully intertwines stories of the town residents who confronted the apocalypse that November day. She vividly conveys the power of the fire itself ... Wildfires have inspired some of California’s and the West’s most harrowing and most necessary literature. You can add Lizzie Johnson’s Paradise to that list.
... riveting ... surprising ... vibrates between parable and particular. While the story is soaked in the sweat and blood of millions of wasted wanderers, it comes to life in the experiences of this one boy ... The simplicity of their friendship belies the novel’s true complexity — the way El Akkad has wrapped an adventure in a blanket of tragedy ... The scenes of their disastrous passage at sea are drawn with gorgeous and horrible strokes, sometimes Melvillean in their grandeur. In this way, the book functions on several levels at once, critiquing the West’s indifference while interrogating the refugees’ blended cynicism and naivete ... Nothing I’ve read before has given me such a visceral sense of the grisly predicament confronted by millions of people expelled from their homes by conflict and climate change. Though What Strange Paradise celebrates a few radical acts of compassion, it does so only by placing those moments of moral courage against a vast ocean of cruelty.
[Johnson] deliver[s] a viscerally harrowing, almost minute-by-minute narrative of the events leading to that conflagration, the dawning realization that a massively fatal wildfire was descending on the region ... She humanizes the book with detailed, sensitively told stories of many of the townspeople ... A cautionary tale in this age of climate change.