Susan Isaacs Jane Oppenheim - Essay

Jane Oppenheim

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Almost Paradise] is a novel about a marriage, or about what becomes a "charade of marriage."

Jane Heissenhuber and Nicholas Cobleigh were of such diverse worlds that it is surprising they met at all, which they did as college seniors….

These two were different—in temperament, in interests, in background. Can there be happiness in "a marriage of opposites"? Can a woman give up dreams of her own career to nurture that of her husband? And can a marriage survive separate love affairs? If such questions start to sound like standard soap fare, Susan Isaacs' very direct style and sensitive writing come to the rescue. What she is saying often becomes less significant than how it is being said. The whole is very apt and timely to the decade in which she is writing.

Setting the stage occupies a good half of Almost Paradise. Ms. Isaacs has created real people. She devotes over two hundred pages to presenting their (imaginary) genealogy, ancestry and pedigree. By the time the protagonists face problems, the reader knows the three hundred year route that has made Jane and Nicholas what they are, and has deep insight into their psychological make-up.

Susan Isaacs has a fine sense of suspense. Until the very last pages there is no hint of how her story will end. In essence, she is reminding us that life is too short…. We always think there will be time—time to make mistakes, time to correct mistakes. But life is not Paradise—it is only Almost Paradise.

Jane Oppenheim, in a review of "Almost Paradise," in Best Sellers, Vol. 43, No. 12, March, 1984, p. 438.