This Other Eden
by Paul Harding
Goose Lane Editions
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers, a novel inspired by the true story of Malaga Island, an isolated island off the coast of Maine that became one of the first racially integrated communities.
In 1792, formerly enslaved Benjamin Honey and his Irish wife, Patience, discovered an island where they could make a life together. More than a century later, the Honeys’ descendants remain on Apple Island, with an eccentric, diverse band of neighbours: a pair of sisters raising three Penobscot orphans; Theophilus and Candace Lark and their nocturnal brood; and the prophetic Zachary Hand to God Proverbs, a Civil War veteran who lives in a hollow tree.
Then comes the intrusion of “civilization”: eugenics-minded state officials decide to “cleanse” the island, and a missionary-schoolteacher selects one light-skinned boy to save. The rest will be left to succumb to institutions or cast themselves on the waters in a new Noah’s Ark.
In prose of transcendent beauty and power, Paul Harding has written a mesmerizing story that explores the hopes, the dreams, and the resilience of those perceived not to fit in a world brutally intolerant of difference.