by Miriam Murcutt and Richard Starks
“I wasn’t looking for Marilyn Monroe when I bumped into her, even though I knew she was in town filming River of No Return…”
So begins In a Town Called Paradox, which asks the question: If each of us has a life story, then who determines how it unfolds and how it should end?
After her mother’s untimely death, the young Corin Dunbar is banished to live with her aunt Jessie, an obsessively religious spinster who runs a failing cattle ranch near a speck of a town called Paradox in southeast Utah. It’s the mid-1950s, and Corin hates her new life until the Big Five Hollywood studios arrive, lured by the fiery red-rock scenery that provides a perfect backdrop to the blockbuster Westerns they plan to film. Overnight, Paradox is transformed from a rural backwater to a playground for glamorous stars like Marilyn Monroe and Rock Hudson.
Seduced by the glitz of the movies, Corin finds work with the studios, but after a brush with the casting couch, she channels her growing ambitions into saving the ranch—the jewel of the Dunbar family for three generations. When she falls for a charismatic stranger, her future seems bright, but a tragic accident she believes is her fault wrecks her dreams and forces her to make an agonizing decision that will change the course of her life.
Told mainly by Corin—now a middle-aged woman haunted by this watershed moment—In a Town Called Paradox is a compelling read that redefines the meaning of love.
Set in the small desert town of Paradox, Utah, this is the story of Corin and Ark. Corin grew up in New York and has had to adjust to ranch life, while Ark was born to missionaries in tribal Africa. On opposite sides of the world they both lost parents and went to live with relatives in completely different environments to the ones they had grown up in. Eventually their paths cross and their story begins.
The book covers a lot of ground: loss; learning to adapt; the importance of belonging; racism; sexism and the hopelessness and helplessness that women experienced; the confining expectations and limited opportunities of living in a small community; science versus faith; and a few others. The book is mainly set in the 1950’s era when attitudes to almost every facet of life were very different, and particularly so in small towns.
I’m being careful not to give away spoiler details, but I loved Corin’s and Ark’s story line and where it took them and the decisions that needed to be made. Yiska’s story was particularly poignant. The injustices of the time were infuriating as well as heartbreaking. The subject matter covered has obviously been well researched and the book is well written.
I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.