In Toni Morrison’s Paradise, the Covent – a former Catholic school for Indigenous girls – is a haven for the women that find themselves there. These women come from very different places, as we can see by mapping their journeys. Because the backgrounds of the characters are fairly ambiguous, there’s quite a lot of guess work to be done, but hey, that’s all part of the fun! For the location of Ruby and the Convent, I have chosen a random place in Oklahoma, in an area that has historically had a large Cheyenne and Arapaho population, making sense if the Convent was a school for young Indigenous girls. I used National Geographic’s interactive map maker to create all maps.
For Mavis, the first mention we get of a location is Paterson, New Jersey, where her mother lives. From Paterson, she heads to Route 70, which she takes until very close to the Convent.
With Gigi, we know that she lived in Frisco, a town in Texas, quite close to the Oklahoma border. From there, we next hear of Gigi making her way to some point in Arizonia, where she is hoping to meet her incarcerated boyfriend at the rock formation that looks like two lovers. She then heads to Mexico, though we are not told exactly where. It is while in Mexico that her grandfather convinces Gigi to return home to Frisco, though she never makes it back there. Instead, she hears of Ruby and ends her journey at the Convent.
Seneca has seemingly travelled the least amount to make it to the Convent. The only location we get is Wichita, Kansas, though we don’t know if that is where she lived with her sister. We know that from Wichita, she hitchhiked her way to Ruby, though yet again, the mystery deepens, as we have no idea what path was taken.
Pallas is probably one of the more mysterious women of the Convent. We know nothing of where she initially lived prior to Ruby, so I’ve made an educated guess. Pallas was a wealthy daughter of an entertainment lawyer, so I have placed her initial location close to Los Angeles, where I imagine quite a lot of wealthy entertainment lawyers live. From there, Pallas travels to her mother’s home in New Mexico. From here, we do not know exactly what route she takes to Oklahoma, where she ends up in a town outside of Ruby, before being taken to the Convent.
Consolata has quite obviously travelled the farthest to make it to the Convent. She begins her life in Brazil, before being taken by the Mother Superior from the Convent and transported to Ruby at the age of nine. She could have lived anywhere in Brazil, but I’ve placed her starting location on the eastern coast in Rio, as this seems the likeliest place that the nuns would go to. From the age of nine on, Consolata lives in the Convent, caring for the Mother Superior until her death.
I find these maps fascinating, guesswork and all, as they show how apart some of these women were before coming to the Convent. It seems as if fate was working in the background to bring these women together in such a remote place.