Paradise Taken

The Diary of Eden Flores Part I

Non-Fiction - Biography
81 Pages
Reviewed on 09/30/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite

Paradise Taken: The Diary of Eden Flores Part I, by Omar Gonzalez, is a powerfully moving biography steeped in trauma and healing. This follow-up to The Phantom Struggle: Memoirs of a Life Once Struggling takes a unique voice, that of his longtime friend Eden Flores, which allows him to explore childhood trauma in a creatively daring and exceptionally effective way. Though it does pay homage to Eden Flores, it also reaches out to those who have endured child abuse and sexual abuse and now seek healing from it. Though the subject matter is tough and trigger warnings apply, readers will connect with it on different levels: some who haven't faced the past yet, some who have and are dealing with it, and those who are trying to put trauma in their rearview mirror.

Though therapy is an ideal way to address trauma, writing is also a therapeutic process. Gonzalez offers a path to healing, writing with sensitivity, grace, and passion. His style is sometimes in-your-face and sometimes gentle as a flower petal. Both are appreciated when discussing trauma. As a social worker turned writer, I can appreciate the work and heart that the author put into this book and the aesthetic qualities and talent. It all comes together as a written work of art. I also like that Gonzalez urges readers to report suspected child abuse and gives phone numbers and other pertinent information. You will be moved by his emotional delivery, succinct analysis, and poetic prowess. One of my favorite parts is when an older woman named Josefina gives a young Eden a knife because her beauty is, to paraphrase, both a blessing and a curse. She will need it for protection one day. If you like prose and poetry based on true stories of trauma and triumph, you will love Paradise Taken: The Diary of Eden Flores Part I by Omar Gonzalez.

Viga Boland

When it comes to memoirs, unless they are written by celebrities or their content deals with something of major interest to specific groups, this is not the most popular genre. Hence, it behooves the memoir writer to find an approach that isn't 100% narrative. In Paradise Taken, Omar Gonzalez has found an approach that is unique and really works. The book is succinct, not padded with backstories about people and events that don't move the memoir forward. Second, it's an interesting blend of styles: short vignettes that balance narrative and dialogue that alternates with stark, hard-hitting poems. Third, and most unusual, this is not Gonzalez's personal story: it's the memoir of Eden Flores. Now that is different, but what an impressive way in which Gonzalez has captured Eden's sad story of early childhood domestic trauma and personal sexual abuse.

As a victim of sexual abuse myself, I was most deeply touched by the poem featured in the epilogue, which cleverly recaps the contents of the previous pages by repeating questions beginning with "Do you know what it feels like to…." This poem cemented Eden's experiences in my mind as I found myself replying, more than once, that "Yes, I know how that feels!" With everything I'd read in Paradise Taken summed up in that one poem, I closed this memoir knowing I would never forget Eden Flores's story. Thank you for writing it, Omar Gonzalez.

Pikasho Deka

In the follow-up to his award-winning debut, The Phantom Struggle: Memoirs of a Life Once Struggling, author Omar Gonzalez pens another heartbreaking biographical account in Paradise Taken: The Diary of Eden Flores - Part 1. This time, the author writes from the perspective of an abuse survivor, Eden Flores, who suffered lifelong trauma at the hands of those she trusted the most. Being a first-generation immigrant living in America was never easy for Eden. Discriminated because of her skin color and gender since childhood, Eden's life was further complicated due to growing up in an abusive home. Seeking refuge at her neighbor's, she suffered the worst trauma a child can face. But it was her father's drunken assault on her that truly broke her spirit and trust in humanity.

With a blend of hard-hitting prose and poetry, author Omar Gonzalez delivers a harrowing biographical account of Eden Flores. The narrative is never self-indulgent or exploitative. On the contrary, it is deftly handled. Despite the sensitive subject matter, the author provides an in-depth and insightful look at Eden Flores's childhood with the required nuances and authenticity that the story deserves. Paradise Taken: The Diary of Eden Flores explores the ways childhood abuse and trauma rob people of their innocence and impact every facet of their outlook for the rest of their lives. This is a much-needed book for the times we live in as we see even more increasing cases of perpetrators of sexual abuse who live hiding in plain sight. Highly recommended.

Joanne Ang

Paradise Taken is part one of the Diary of Eden Flores series by Omar Gonzalez and is based on a true story. Paradise Taken starts with Eden, a young girl full of love and living in the United States. A trip to her parents' hometowns revealed that not everyone is as fortunate as the regular American family. In fact, her home life during these trips was far from the ideal picture. Her fate gets worse when she returns to America. The mixture of an alcoholic and abusive father and the brokenness of a shell that was once her mother, child abuse, and sexual abuse within the household left a deep wound in Eden's soul, scarring her. Eden shares her deepest thoughts and secrets from the past in this heroic tale.

Omar Gonzalez truly did Paradise Taken justice through his descriptive writing and poems. I admire Omar Gonzalez's writing, which clearly shows Eden's hidden thoughts and tightly shut secrets. His writing successfully captured Eden's emotions at the time of heart-breaking tragedies at a young age. I thought that the use of poems was unique and worked very well in portraying the thought processes of Eden and the conflict that she was feeling. The poems were short and concise yet spoke volumes in between the lines. It was beautifully written, and I could imagine the scenes and felt Eden's pain through the poems. Paradise Taken is surely a story that will pull at your heartstrings.

Astrid Iustulin

Stories of abuse are always dreadful, but when they concern children, they become even more execrable. Eden Flores is, unfortunately, one of those children who have been victims of abuse, including sexual abuse, by someone they knew. Her friend Omar Gonzalez tells her story in Paradise Taken: The Diary of Eden Flores Part I. Although this is not a long book, Paradise Taken will leave its mark on the reader by recollecting the abuses Eden has suffered both in prose and poetry. Paradise Taken is definitely not a book for the faint of heart, but with its unique style and terrible story, it helps us reflect on a delicate and terrible issue.

When I started Paradise Taken, I was not sure the reading would be smooth, especially because of the interweaving of prose and poetry. Almost immediately, though, I realized this is the strong point of Paradise Taken. In prose, we find the narration of the events, while in the poems, we hear Eden's voice. She expresses her feelings in these lines, and her sadness and sense of helplessness become extremely clear. I am thinking in particular of the poem about Steven and the one telling the story of the abuse suffered by her father. Omar Gonzalez tells Eden's story without superfluous comments and, at the same time, highlights her dramatic situation. It is rare to find books where themes like these stand out so well. I hope many people read Paradise Taken and appreciate it for its remarkable qualities.