Two women, nearly a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives when they reluctantly leave their homelands. Arriving in Singapore, they find romance in a tropical paradise, but also find they haven’t left behind the dangers that caused them to flee.
In the aftermath of 9/11 and haunted by the specter of terrorism, Aislinn Givens leaves her New York law practice and joins her husband in Southeast Asia when he takes a job there. Seeking to establish herself in a local law firm, Aislinn begins to understand the historic resentment of foreigners who have exploited the region for centuries. Learning about the turmoil of Singapore’s colonial period, she acquires several paintings done by an English artist during World War I that she believes are a warning to her. The artist, Elizabeth Pennington, tells her own tumultuous story through diary entries that come to an end when the war reaches the colony with catastrophic results. In the present, Aislinn and her husband learn tragically that terrorism takes many shapes when they are ensnared by local political upheaval and corruption.
In a lyrical blend of historical and contemporary drama, The Last Bird of Paradise explores the consequences of power imbalances-both domestic and geopolitical, against a lush, tropical backdrop. Clifford Garstang, author of the award-winning novel Oliver’s Travels, once again draws on his decades of experience in Asia to tell an unforgettable story of romantic intrigue.
Clifford Garstang (South Korea 1976-77) grew up in the Midwest and received a BA from Northwestern University. After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, he earned an MA in English and a JD, both from Indiana University, and practiced international law in Singapore, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Subsequently, he earned an MPA in International Development from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and worked for Harvard Law School as a legal reform consultant in Almaty, Kazakhstan. From 1996 to 2001, he was Senior Counsel for East Asia at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., where his work concentrated on China, Indonesia, Korea, and Vietnam.
After leaving the World Bank, Garstang received an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. His award-winning collection of linked short stories, In an Uncharted Country, was published by Press 53 of Winston-Salem, NC, in 2009. Press 53 also published his second book, What the Zhang Boys Know, a novel in stories that won the 2013 Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction. Garstang’s work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Blackbird, Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Cream City Review, Tampa Review, Los Angeles Review, The Hopkins Review, and elsewhere.
He won the 2006 Confluence Fiction Prize and the 2007 GSU Review Fiction Prize, and has had a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and scholarships to Sewanee, Indiana University Writers’ Conference, Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop, and the Virginia Quarterly Review Writers’ Conference, as well as residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, Hambidge Center for the Arts, and Rivendell Writers’ Colony. In 2015, Garstang received the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Emerging Authors Award from the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.
Garstang has also edited an anthology series for Press 53. Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, Volume I is a collection of 20 stories by 20 authors set in 20 countries. Volume II, with 20 more stories, came out in 2016. The third volume was published in October 2018.