229 of 240 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEAUTY OF "NATURE" BY KINGSOLVER
If you ever wanted to get a greater appreciation of nature, predators and their prey, and survival of the fittest, then you'll probably really enjoy Kingsolver's latest book. I was totally in awe of her knowledge, most of which I'm sure did not come just through research. The jacket cover mentions that she earned a graduate degree in biology before becoming a full-time...
Published on October 25, 2000 by Nancy Martin
58 of 68 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The birds and the bees -- literally.
Moths are doing it, birds are doing it, coyotes, goats, even chestnut trees are doing it. And of course, the human characters are no exception. This is a book about the lifecycle: birth, death, reproduction, nature's weeding out of the weak in favor of the strong. It is about the urge to put forth one's own genes, or at the very least, one's own privates.
Published on November 28, 2000 by Kathryn A. Goodman
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229 of 240 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEAUTY OF "NATURE" BY KINGSOLVER,
If you ever wanted to get a greater appreciation of nature, predators and their prey, and survival of the fittest, then you'll probably really enjoy Kingsolver's latest book. I was totally in awe of her knowledge, most of which I'm sure did not come just through research. The jacket cover mentions that she earned a graduate degree in biology before becoming a full-time author. This is quite evident throughout and it becomes obvious to the reader that this is a labor of love on her part. Let's put it this way -- if ever I was a contestant on the millionaire show and a biology question came up, I'd want Barbara Kingsolver as my "phone a friend."
What is a prodigal summer? The author describes it as the "season of extravagant procreation" and, from that point, the story begins. This procreation will be experienced by all different forms of life found within these pages.
Kingsolver, who so beautifully told her Poisonwood Bible story through the eyes of the four daughters and their mother, uses this same writing style once again in Prodigal Summer. This time though, the chapters aren't headed with the characters' names but instead are indicated by their particular field of interest.
The Predators section describes Deanna Wolfe, working for the forest service and living by herself in an isolated cabin. She has also penned a thesis on coyotes and it's her dream to come across this predator in her small world in the Appalachian Mountains.
Moth Love is devoted to Lusa Landowski, a young, beautiful city girl who has studied entomology and is now a bug expert and lover. She also inherits a farm and has to decide whether to stay in Zebulon Valley and commit to that lifestyle or return to Lexington, Kentucky.
Old Chestnuts explores the relationship between Garnett Walker, an 80 year old widow, and his love affair with the chestnut tree. During his lifetime, he is trying to recreate this almost extinct tree type within his Zebulon Valley region. Added to this mission is his love/hate relationship with his neighbor, 75 year old Nannie Rawley, and owner of an organic apple orchard.
Midway through the book, the connections between these individuals begin to surface as you know they would. Just as subtly, the connections between the underlying characters and their particular love of nature is explored. How to poison things without using poison? How predation is a sacrament? How birds never doubt their place at the center of the universe? How moths speak to each other via scent? How every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot? These are just a fraction of the questions Kingsolver poses -- all the answers lie within these pages.
Barbara Kingsolver once again leaves the reader with food for thought. I guarantee that, after reading this book, you will never look at a moth the same way as you did before and probably won't kill another spider. For as she explains, "every choice is a world made new for the chosen." So if you, as the predator, choose not to kill a lesser life form, there begins a new life for that "prey" or that chosen species.
Since I would never categorize myself as someone who is "into nature", on an enjoyment scale I would only have rated this book with four stars. The fact that it is so well-written, with fabulous character development, well-researched content, and extraordinary subject knowledge by the author, it positively deserves a five star rating.
140 of 149 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another magnificent book from Kingsolver!,
Prodigal Summer is a passionate adventure weaving together three stories about a corner of Appalachia called Zebulon Mountain. Wherever YOUR secret outdoor place was as a child--a backyard thicket, a neighbor's stream, or a nearby apple orchard--reading this book is like opening up someone else's magic world. I cared deeply about the characters, who are opinionated, alive, flawed, and compassionate. Kingsolver is an astute naturalist, with a strong moral sense of how man and beast should interact. She is such a lovely writer I found myself re-reading sentences just for the sheer joy of it. If you have ever listened to the cricket chorus on a summer eve, been in love, or held your breath when a butterfly landed on your sleeve, this book is for you.
69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel of environmental issues,
If I were to write a review having read only the first section of PRODIGAL SUMMER, I would have panned it. In highly descriptive prose, Kingsolver starts out with a middle aged woman (and forest ranger) being tracked by a much younger and of course good-looking hunter, the result being a kind of Joyce Carol Oates meets THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. However, I'm happy to report the novel strengthens tremendously as it unfolds.
Kingsolver follows the lives of three characters during a particularly lush, hot summer in Appalachia, where American chestnuts and red wolves once flourished. Deanna, the forest ranger, is caught between her lover and protecting the den of coyotes he wants to locate and destroy. In the valley below, the recently widowed Lusa struggles with the ill will of her in-laws as she searches for ways to keep the family land her husband left her. And in another section of farmland, elderly Garnett feuds with Nannie over Nannie's organic farming methods, which Garnett disdains and sees as a threat to his own reputation and methods. Lusa's story is the most compelling, perhaps because Kingsolver reserves most of her opinions about the care of the environment for the other two tales, instead focusing on more personal matters. Still, the other two are told well, with strong, flowing prose. Kingsolver connects these three points-of-view mostly by the land they inhabit, but also by past histories. Although the main characters live out their dramas in isolation from the others, their lives touch upon one another in subtle ways and understandings.
This novel is heavily thematic, even occasionally dogmatic, so if this kind of writing leaves you cold, don't waste your money. However, if you're the type who likes a fictional journey coupled with political issues, this may be exactly what you're looking for. People interested in environmental issues as well as those interested in Kingsolver's progress as a novelist should read this book.
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying, but not filling.,
If the Kingsolver you love is the one who wrote The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, and Animal Dreams, and you found The Poisonwood Bible written in a different voice and style, be warned that Prodigal Summer is closer in tone and structure to The Poisonwood Bible.
But Prodigal Summer has its own power and magic. The basic storyline is the focus on nature as a major life force. But it is told from the viewpoint of three different character groups who come to understand that no one stands alone, no action is without consequence, every decision leads to results, wanted or unwanted.
The young widow must make decisions about her future and her dead husband's land while struggling with his complex family. The Forest Service employee must deal with her chosen solitude and the hunter whom she invites to interrupt it. The two farmers must come to grips with how to manage their adjoining land, organically or chemically. These elements would stand well on their own, but Kingsolver doesn't let the story lines run separate. All these people's lives cross. Their opinions differ, their ways of dealing with life and conflict differ. But they have to come up with a way of getting along. Just like real life.
The telling of this one story in different voices is a method Kingsolver does well. The story is intersting, touching, gripping and, happily for the reader, not neatly tied up at the end. Like nature, things are left unsolved, to continue along with choices made thoughtfully and thoughtlessly, but all with strong convictions. It's a good read with a careful presentation of some controversial topics.
94 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Each page an over-abundant joy,
By A Customer
Each page of Kingsolver's new novel, is full of the rich details readers have come to expect. The description of the scenery alone, makes this piece a must read. Kingsolver really does create a painting with words that we can walk thought, smell, touch, even taste. Added to that background, are believable characters; women, who are strong but not hard, men, who are stubborn but not distant. The book explores humans in a way that celebrates both thier souls and their animal essance. It also tackles the most delicate of human emotions, love. Love that is not always conveniet, pretty, or romantic...but without question alluring.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are some people nuts?,
Occasionally life gives us a chance to see how differently other people view the world than we do. Reading the negative reviews of Prodigal Summer is one of those experiences. I found the book to not only be incredibly moving, but wonderfully informative. Kingsolver doesn't lecture about ecology, but illustrates her points with great deft. A frequent crticism of Kingsolver is how men come across in her novels. Well, I'm a man and all I can say is pretty much all we get in this country is a steady diet of how men see the world. Kudos to Kingsolver for writing exactly what she wants.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A whole new world....,
This review is from: Prodigal Summer: A Novel (Paperback)
Prodigal Summer is a novel of three stories running concurrently and each inhabiting ideals and statements about wildlife and the food chain, pesticides and the environment, and insects and reproduction. While it doesn't seem like much of a premise for a novel, Prodigal Summer does have endearing characters that spark with life and humor all while being threaded with Barbara Kingsolver's own political platforms.
The three stories in Prodigal Summer gives us unique and carefully drawn characters. In Predators, we have Deanna, a wildlife ranger who has made the forest her home for the past two years and who spends her days monitoring and protecting its creatures. Then along comes rancher Eddie Bondo who turns her life upside down. In Moth Love, there is young widow, Lusa, who is now alone and surrounded by her late husband, Cole's, unsupportive and unwelcoming family. Lusa battles moral questions about the farm she lives on, dealing with her in-laws, and, most importantly, the difference between biological family and the family you inherit. Finally, in Old Chestnuts, we meet old Garnett Walker, who seems plagued by his stubborn and eccentric neighbor, Nannie Rawley. Nannie's anti-pesticide and evolution beliefs are about to drive Garnett to the crazy house. But amidst of all the craziness and their hard-headed environmental and religious debates, Garnett manages to surprise himself.
The underlying theme of Kingsolver's political issues makes Prodigal Summer a glorious canopy for the beautifully crafted stories it holds. I wasn't sure what to make of the book when I first opened it, but after getting familiar with each individual story, the wonder began to take hold and I was truly mesmerized. Kingsolver has a poetic way with words, and I certainly came away from this book with a more clarified understanding about the world we live in and our place within it.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her BEST yet! Wonderfully woven fabric...,
This review is from: Prodigal Summer: A Novel (Paperback)
This book will go on my must read list. I have already given it out to numerous friends, and alerted others to its delights. Kingsolver, who is a favorite author anyway, has written a well-researched and loving tale about the lives of three people in an Appalachian community. She weaves the stories together in overlaying chapters: the "Predator" chapters follow Deanna, a park ranger in the mountains who is tracking coyotes; the "Moth Love" chapters follow Lusa, a half Jewish/half Palestinian entomologist who has married a farm boy; and the "Old Chestnuts" chapters follow Garnett, an eighty-year-old scientist/farmer who is still trying to bring back the American Chestnut tree, and is in constant conflict with his next door neighbor, Nanny Rawley (an aging feminist organic farmer).
The author manages to bring together varying points of view about the community, the ecological fabric (that touches all of them and eventually brings families, lovers and neighbors together) and about sheer personal growth and development. Her research is so complete that I found I learned a great deal more about how fragile our natural world is and how much we as human beings have to do with that fragility and its continued survival. Her characters are believable, and they struggle with their hearts in a variety of ways - all eventually reaching for what is right for them. I suppose that was what I so loved about the book. So many people make life decisions to suit others or per what others might like or think. Kingsolver's characters tackle the life questions and finally decide what is best for them, which is almost always the hardest route to take. This was a sexy, funny, tender, and all around tremendously rich and satisfying novel.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great characters, good story and an ecology lesson,
Barbara Kingsolver's "Poisonwood Bible" was a huge success and that's a rough act to follow. But "Prodigal Summer" rises to the challenge and pulls the reader in with the same lush narrative voice that rings throughout all her work. I looked up the word "prodigal" in the dictionary. It has two different meanings. One is "exceedingly or recklessly wasteful." The other is "extremely abundant." Herein lies the rich theme of the book as it describes one special summer in a place that is a "wrinkle on the map that lies between farms and wildness." This is new territory for me. I live in New York City and I find the natural world fascinating, but yet a bit overwhelming. In this book, however, Ms. Kingsolver makes sure I understand it all.
There are three interweaving stories. There's a wildlife biologist who works for the Park Service and lives alone in a cabin in the forest. She's been there two years and loves her solitary life; then she meets a young hunter. Down in the valley, there's a young widow who is learning about what it takes to run a farm. And a few miles away are some elderly neighbors who are constantly bickering about the world around them that they never expected. Each of these characters was so richly developed that I could anticipate their every thought while still feeling the tension of their grappling with each other, the environment and themselves.
The environment itself is a driving force. The wind on their skin, the scents in their nostrils, the air they breath, and their place in the natural world are not only described poetically, but move the story forward. There are facts in this book, lots of facts. I drank them all up as a person who has been thirsty a long time. Finally, I really understood what pesticide spraying actually does to the environment. The balance between all living things became clear to me. And I was filled with a wonder and appreciation for the natural world.
Ms. Kingsolver is preachy; there's no doubt about it. She wants to tell a good story, it's true, but she also has other motives for writing. She does that in all her books and Prodigal Summer is no exception. Here, she teaches us about the wonder and beauty of nature.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Peaceable Kingdom,
By A Customer
What's not to love about the novels of Barbara Kingsolver? In beneficent books like ''The Bean Trees,'' ''Pigs in Heaven,'' and ''Animal Dreams,'' she creates vivid domestic utopias, usually influenced by the wild landscapes of rural Appalachia or sun bleached Arizona, where she declares herself pro organic gardening and antiwar, in favor of good sex and against rudeness.
In the beckoning kingdom of Kingsolver, thinking women (sexy even with their middle aged bodies and stubborn ways), responsive men (sexy even when impermanent), and free range children (handfuls but always worth it) can live in harmony, breathe clean air, and listen to National Public Radio. She offers a balm, a seductive glimpse of an abundant Eden near at hand for even the least spectacular, least perfect, least wrinkle free of readers.
After the exciting, rewarding leap she took with the bestselling ''Poisonwood Bible,'' away from home canning and deep into the lives of an American missionary family in the Belgian Congo of the 1960s, the new novel is a return to Kingsolver's ''classic'' style and subject matter. We're back in fertile southern Appalachia, in Zebulon County, in a season so glorious with dappled things as to leap right out of a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem. And up and down the valley, women and coyotes are sniffing the air.
Literally. In the mountains, pheromones fly when Deanna, a solitary wildlife biologist who champions nature's predators for their underappreciated contribution to ecological balance (she's divorced, not yet 50), meets a much younger man, a hunter, while each is tracking the elusive coyote, canis latrans. In the hollow, Lusa, a young farmer's widow (a splashy multicultural mix, half Palestinian and half Polish Jewish, not yet 30) unknots the tangles of distrust that separate her from her late husband's firmly rooted kin. Across the county, Nannie, an old nonconformist lady (not yet 80, her orchard pesticide free), bickers with the fusty old widower next door.
It will come as no surprise to her acolytes that Kingsolver eventually twines all three of these admirable specimens of feminine self actualization, and that coyotes are seen and heard regularly. Blended and otherwise do it yourself postnuclear family groupings have always enchanted Kingsolver, as has the interconnectedness of humans and the rest of the natural world.
The mating habits of a luna moth, the marvelous secrets revealed in animal droppings, and the best thing to do when surprised by a deadly copperhead snake equally inspire her, and the writer's prose sings sweetest when she's closely observing the earth with no thought to making poetry. Of an oak tree upended by a storm, she notices, ''the fallen tree still burgeoned with glossy oak leaves -- probably still trying to scatter its pollen to the wind and set acorns as if its roots were not straggling in the breeze and its bulk doomed to firewood.''
But then, goodness gracious, Lusa has deep thoughts like, ''We're only what we are: a woman cycling with the moon, and a tribe of men trying to have sex with the sky.'' And Kingsolver herself has palpitations over Deanna's intense erotic response to her young lover/ hunter. (''She could not remember a more compelling combination of features on any man she'd ever seen.'') When they go to bed for the first time, ''It was the body's decision, a body with no more choice of its natural history than an orchid has, or the bee it needs, and so they would both get lost here, she would let him in, anywhere he wanted to go.''
Cue the birds, the bees, the coyote's wail, and pour yourself a mug of mint tea--a luscious literary view of women.
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Prodigal Summer: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver (Paperback - October 16, 2001)