Prodigal Summer

Prodigal Summer

A Novel

Book - 2000
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Barbara Kingsolver, a writer praised for her"extravagantly gifted narrative voice" (New York Times Book Review), has created with this novel a hymn to wildness that celebrates the prodigal spirit of human nature, and of nature itself.

Prodigal Summer weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern Appalachia. At the heart of these intertwined narratives is a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches the forest from her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin where she is caught off-guard by Eddie Bondo, a young hunter who comes to invade her most private spaces and confound her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, another web of lives unfolds as Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife, finds herself unexpectedly marooned in a strange place where she must declare or lose her attachment to the land. And a few more miles down the road, a pair of elderly, feuding neighbors tend their respective farms and wrangle about God, pesticides, and the complexities of a world neither of them expected.

Over the course of one humid summer, as the urge to procreate overtakes a green and profligate countryside, these characters find connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with which they necessarily share a place. Their discoveries are embedded inside countless intimate lessons of biology, the realities of small farming, and the final, urgent truth that humans are only one part of life on earth.

With the richness that characterizes Barbara Kingsolver's finest work, Prodigal Summer embraces pure thematic originality and demonstrates a balance of narrative and ideas that only an accomplished novelist could render so beautifully.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c2000.
ISBN: 9780060199654
0060199652
9780060959036
0060959037
Characteristics: xi, 444 p. ;,24 cm.

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w
wyenotgo
Feb 24, 2020

As Richard Powers noted in The Overstory, "The best argument in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”
Kingsolver’s argument — the value of the natural world, mankind’s wretched history of abuse of it and refusal to understand it — she loads onto the backs of three interwoven stories that seem to start off slowly but gain momentum later on. Novels that permit the author’s message to dominate, making its plot, setting and characters subservient to the message being presented, risk becoming pedantic or alienating some readers; it’s a fine line the writer has to walk. Kingsolver’s passion rings true — especially when it comes to coyotes. But on its own, her story of Deanna (about a woman who has turned her back on the society of humans, with lot of nature lore and a bit of romance thrown in) could not have carried the load. Whether Kingsolver has struck the right balance may depend on each reader’s personal point of view.
Garnet’s story, on the other hand is that of a crotchety old man, troubled by changes in a world whose rules he thought he understood. Like any really competent novelist, Kingsolver recognizes the value of comic relief, which she offers with the contest of wills between Garnet and Nannie, his aging neighbor.
Lusa’s story, to my mind the best of the three, is about love in all its unexpected and confusing manifestations and coming to terms with the awkward dynamic of family. It was here, 200 pages in, that I began to love the book. Multiple themes — a clash of cultures; sisterly conflict; a child who is urging toward transgender; the “predicament known as farming” — add the degree of richness and complexity that was needed.
As a bonus: when she chooses to do so, Kingsolver can spin out passages of sheer lyricism: “He wrapped her in his softness, touched her face with the movement of trees and the odor of wild water over stones, dissolving he need in the confidence of his embrace.”

m
mzch
Oct 28, 2019

Lovely storytelling, engaging characters, happy possibilities--a great listen!

f
Futurvue
Jun 05, 2019

I wish I had kept a reading journal during the time that I read this book. E.g., what did I think was going to happen, based on such-and-such a sentence (or paragraph) in the book at this point; then, at the next notable point? It is impossible to analyze the craft of how that's built in retrospect, because you can never un-know what's going to happen and recreate that initial experience! It's the craft I'm interested in, though the book was enjoyable to read, anyway.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin May 25, 2019

After reading Unsheltered, I've become really interested in Kingsolver. I've got some work to do going back and reading her body of work. I enjoy her independent characters.

WestSlope_TheaH Aug 21, 2018

Kingsolver’s writing is descriptive, lyrical, and lush. This is one of my favorite novels by her. The story is told from the perspectives of three free-spirited and capable women in the mountains and farms of southern Appalachia over the course of a summer. A strong sense of place and fierce love of the natural world are undercurrents in this wonderful read.

p
peacebenow
Jul 08, 2017

Another Great book by B. Kingsolver. Each of the main characters grow and interact delightfully w/ the world around them. So enjoyed the reveling in nature and the natural world. More than relevant into days world when so much of our natural world is under assault by our President (lack of care or interest) and by big business who's product likely are killing off bees and infecting our food supply. (My only little commentary) My admiration of her continues!

m
miaone
Feb 01, 2017

I love this book; I've re-read it several times and probably will do so again. It speaks to a deep and tender part of me.

c
Chapel_Hill_KenMc
Dec 20, 2014

A wonderful novel of fertility and ecology, packed with information on various naturalist topics. Kingsolver can be rather preachy and heavy-handed with her ecological statements, but her plot and characters are so fulfilling and fascinating, it's easy to forgive some overbearing writing.

l
lorhu
Jul 09, 2012

Wonderful book! Teaches you so much about nature and about predator and prey. I remember loving this book so much I am writing a review over a year after I read it.

k
kitkat110706
Jun 19, 2012

Almost finished reading this gem for the second time. I'm in so much love with it. It's raw emotion is so beautifully presented, and the characters develop and intertwine with a primal grace that can only come from Ms. Kingsolver. I appreciate the geography lesson of the Appalachian country in addition to the amazing story.

Read this book!

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