Barbara Kingsolver's thirteen books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction include the novels The Bean Trees and the international bestseller The Poisonwood Bible which, amongst other accolades, won the 2005 Penguin/Orange Reading Group Book of the Year award. Her most recent novel The Lacuna, won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.
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. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"'(Barbara Kingsolver's)...marvellously subtle and compelling tale of a southern Appalachian farming community in tense interplay with the wilderness on its doorstep, contains a deft parable of humankind's place in nature. Prodigal Summer is a rich and compulsive read. Its acute and sensuous observation of the natural world reveals an unexpected beauty, as it traces human love in the flight of a luna moth.' Guardian"
This novel covers the expanse of one summer in the lives of several people in a remote area of southern Appalachia. The central theme tying three separate story lines together is the importance, and fragility, of the biological ecosystems found in the natural world. This precarious balance between humans and everything elseDplants, bugs, moths, and mammalsDis examined, tested, rejected, and rejoiced in by a collage of characters, who include Deanna Wolfe, the park ranger who tries to protect a pack of coyotes that miraculously appear on Zebulon Mountain; Lusa Landowski, a city girl with a degree in entomology who raises and sells goat kids; and feuding neighbors Garnett Walker and Nannie Rawley. To follow The Poisonwood Bible would be a daunting task for any writer; for Kingsolver, it would seem to be just about spinning another marvelous, magical yarn, only in a different locale and filled with another batch of endearing, honest people. This time her message is about the environment and intelligent women who are more comfortable with a love of nature than love with a man. Kingsolver reads her own words as lyrically as she writes them. Very highly recommended for all public and academic libraries with audio literature collections.DGloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.