Paradise Park tells the story of the Turners, an Evangelical Catholic family of six, who operate a sin and salvation themed amusement park, in Alapaha, Georgia. The novel unfolds in three parts; the first, set in 1951, tells the story of 17-year-old Lillian, who will become the matriarch of the Turner family, and her struggle to separate her desire for Christ from her desire for the new parish priest and to reconcile her Charismatic spiritual convictions with her family’s pressure to live a subdued middle-class Catholic life.
The novel’s second section begins in 1977 and follows Lillian Turner’s five children: Cass (22), Asa (21), Henry (18), Madeline (16), and Jesse (10), as they prepare for the coming of Graciela, a fortune-teller, to Paradise Park. Lillian objects to Graciela’s sensual presence and its effect on her children, especially on Cass, her butch daughter who, since Mr. Turner’s death, has served as the “man of the house” and has been allowed a pass for her gender/sexuality as long as she is seemingly celibate. Lillian also worries over Asa, her smartest and most promising son, and his fascination with Graciela. What Lillian cannot predict is that delicate, saint-obsessed, 16-year-old Madeline will be the one to capture 28-year-old Graciela’s love and attention; a love which ultimately drives the family apart.
The final section, set in North Georgia in 2002, follows Cass who’s raising Julian, the 15-year-old product of a one-night-stand between Graciela and Asa.