Paradise Theater reviews


5 Stars: “Few short stories appeal to me. I was surprised that these moved me deeply and left me hungry for more. The author grew up in West Allis, Wisconsin, a first-ring suburb of Milwaukee. Once a flourishing industrial town, it has fallen on hard times like so many rustbelt communities. In a series of vignettes the reader is made to feel the hopelessness of individuals as their community crumbles around them. A couple of the stories are real gems, reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor. ‘Mahoney’ traces the dissolution of the character of a local physician from respected member of the community to Oxycontin peddler and addict. His gradual descent parallels the fortunes of the Milwaukee Braves, the world champions of 1958. ‘Forgiveness’ is an emotionally brutal tale of a doomed relationship between father and son. Those may be the best, but they are all compelling. Also the author’s introduction, which sets the West Allis stage, is worth the book’s cost by itself.”

Five Stars: “America, please welcome a powerful new voice! Jack Ravenwood’s writing evokes the subtle penetrations of a John Fante or Barry Hannah and, much like these two underground Titans of the short story form, he works from a time and place no longer HERE, but not exactly GONE. We know the people Ravenwood writes about – their familial deconstructions, their melancholy drift through lives affected by outside circumstances (“Where did the factories go, Pa??”). For many of America’s factory-towns (I eschew the term “RUST BELT”) the end of America’s post WWII “Golden Age” meant decades of back-sliding away from once standard expectations: a job, enough income to live free of want, true human connections etc… The stories that make up this astonishing debut tracks the era’s trajectory from the POV residents of West Allis, WI where manufacturing and self-worth are intertwined, where diversion is the reaction to decline and where the future can’t be counted on. Moving, insightful and sometimes heartbreaking PARADISE THEATER bridges the micro/macro aspects of City life and deserves to be on your (PHYSICAL!) book shelf alongside Donald Ray Pollock and Frank Bill. It’s that good. Believe it.”


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