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Paradise

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A. L. Kennedy’s Paradise antiheroine Hannah could be a Scottish Augusten Burroughs. Like that best-selling author in Dry, Hannah is a bitingly keen, booze-soaked observer: A bar patron is ”a mouse-brown woman with wilting clothes,” fellow rehab patients are ”emotional vampires,” and her hometown is ”the gossipy, swollen village that calls itself a city, the greasy, grey-faced hole where no one can ever be truly unobserved.” Because she’s so cynical, Hannah’s moments of tenderness — with her concerned, aging parents or her flawed yet sweet boyfriend — are heart-breaking in their stripped-bare yearning. Paradise can grow tedious as it careers between drunken tirade and cranky sobriety, but ultimately it achieves a swirling waking-dream state that’s both jarring and richly satisfying.

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