Barbara Kingsolver's fifth novel is a hymn to wildness that celebrates the prodigal spirit of human nature, and of nature itself. It weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives amid the mountains and farms of southern Appalachia. Over the course of one humid summer, this novel's intriguing protagonists face disparate predicaments but find connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with which they necessarily share a place.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Brimming with intricate and mesmerizing detail, Prodigal Summer follows three interwoven stories unfolding against the backdrop of southern Appalachia. With her signature style and ornate descriptions of nature, Barbara Kingsolver brings her setting alive in a way that makes it a character all its own. And she’s a master of poignant, emotional dialogue too, shining a light on themes of connection, evolution, mothering, and love. This novel isn’t a quick read; Kingsolver, in fine form, demands your time, your full attention, and your entire heart.
HA beguiling departure for Kingsolver, who generally tackles social themes with trenchantly serious messages, this sentimental but honest novel exhibits a talent for fiction lighter in mood and tone than The Poisonwood Bible and her previous works. There is also a new emphasis on the natural world, described in sensuous language and precise detail. But Kingsolver continues to take on timely issues, here focusing on the ecological damage caused by herbicides, ethical questions about raising tobacco, and the endangered condition of subsistence farming. A corner of southern Appalachia serves as the setting for the stories of three intertwined lives, and alternating chapters with recurring names signal which of the three protagonists is taking center stage. Each character suffers because his or her way of looking at the world seems incompatible with that of loved ones. In the chapters called "Predator," forest ranger Deanna Wolfe is a 40-plus wildlife biologist and staunch defender of coyotes, which have recently extended their range into Appalachia. Wyoming rancher Eddie Bondo also invades her territory, on a bounty hunt to kill the same nest of coyotes that Deanna is protecting. Their passionate but seemingly ill-fated affair takes place in summertime and mirrors "the eroticism of fecund woods" and "the season of extravagant procreation." Meanwhile, in the chapters called "Moth Love," newly married entomologist Lusa Maluf Landowski is left a widow on her husband's farm with five envious sisters-in-law, crushing debtsDand a desperate and brilliant idea. Crusty old farmer Garnett Walker ("Old Chestnuts") learns to respect his archenemy, who crusades for organic farming and opposes Garnett's use of pesticides. If Kingsolver is sometimes too blatant in creating diametrically opposed characters and paradoxical inconsistencies, readers will be seduced by her effortless prose, her subtle use of Appalachian patois. They'll also respond to the sympathy with which she reflects the difficult lives of people struggling on the hard edge of poverty while tied intimately to the natural world and engaged an elemental search for dignity and human connection.
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Kingsolver has amazed me once again! This book was sultry, packed full of emotion and heart. I absolutely loved it!
The quintessential summer read
Barbara Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer" never fails to satisfy my craving for a cracking good set of stories told with humor and inspiration. In many places her prose rises to the level if sensual poetry, drunk with the wonders of all creation, but with a sober knowledge of human folly. I read it nearly every year and don't plan to stop any time soon.
I absolutely fell in love with these characters. A very well written work of fiction although could be real life memoirs. I have purchased this as gifts for many of my friends. A great Book Club read as well with fun discussions. I'm still waiting for a sequel though !