Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver

Despite the fact that Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite books, I always hesitate to read the rest of her novels. I think I am worried that I will be disappointed. And so, Prodigal Summer has sat on my shelf for years. I decided to take it down for my current trip, as it seemed like good airplane/pool-side reading. Prodigal Summer involves three different story lines. The first is about Lusa, a well-educated scientist who has moved to the country for her husband. Shunned by her gossiping sister-in-laws, she struggles to find her place in her new environment. The second is about Deanna, a loner, who escapes society altogether by moving up into the mountains, working for the forest service, and tracking coyotes. Finally, there is Garnett, a bitter old man with no family in a neighborly dispute over pesticides. As expected, the three stories eventually intertwine, and at the heart of each one is a recognition of the power of nature, the importance of each animal (insect and mammal) in our ecosystem, and surpisingly that despite long-standing traditions and stubborn ways, that people really can change. Plot-wise this book was quite predictable, but I enjoyed learning about the different characters. My favorite story line was the one involving Lusa, and I enjoyed watching her turn from the city mouse into the country mouse, and her appreciation of the children in her life and their need for independence (though there is a bit of an uncomfortable relationship with her 17-year old nephew by marriage). Lately, I've been in a need for stories with happy endings - and I liked that this one ended, not with all the loose ends tied up, but with great hope that they would be. Prodigal Summer is a bit heavy at times on the preachy-ness of the importance of all creatures (a foreshadow of Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), but ultimately, it is an enjoyable story - and perfect summer reading.

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