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402 of 421 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to the garden!, May 5, 2007
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This review is from: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (Hardcover)
Three hundred and sixty-eight pages, no pretty pictures, and it's about food? Yes it is, and it's fascinating. Written by best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver, her scientist hubby and teenage daughter, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" chronicles the true story of the family's adventures as they move to a farm in rural Virginia and vow to eat locally for one year. They grow their own vegetables, raise their own poultry and buy the rest of their food directly from farmers markets and other local sources. There are touching human stories here (the family's 9-year-old learns a secret to raising chickens for food: don't name them!) but the book's purpose is serious food for thought: it argues the economic, social and health benefits of putting local foods at the center of a family diet. As Kingsolver details the family's experience month-by-month, husband Steven adds sidebars on the problems of industrial agriculture and daughter Camille tosses in some first-person essays ("Growing Up in the Kitchen") and recipes ("Holiday Corn Pudding a Nine-Year-Old Can Make").

And it is all so well written! Kingsolver can veer way off topic -- wandering off into subjects like rural politics, even turkey sex -- and still, somehow, stay right on point. Her husband can say more in two pages than some professors I know can say in 200, and the daughter's writings... well I often couldn't tell who was writing what without checking for the byline.

The book looks and feels great, too. The dust jacket has been pressed into the nubby texture of burlap. The pages have ragged edges, which makes them soft on your fingers.

Reading this book, drinking my Phosphoric Acid Diet Coke and snacking on some Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil Walt Disney World Hungry Heroes Yogurt Pretzels, I suddenly felt like I was a kid again, sitting in my bedroom in 1969 listening to that Joni Mitchell "Woodstock" lyric: "Time to get back to the land, and set my soul free." Now that song is stuck back in my head! Maybe it should have never left.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 7, 2009 6:41:15 PM PDT
Justry says:
Really, the jacket felt knubbly? Give me a break. Please note that although I suspect her intentions were goodish, and cosmically founded, I would have been MORE impressed if Barb and her family had stayed in Tucson and accomplished her *year of eating locally*. No doubt she (they) would not have been nearly as successful...if sucessful at all. There in lies the BIG MAJOR flaw in her preaching...which is exactly all this was...oh and to sell books, which I certainly don't fault her for wanting to do (the sell books part). Raising awareness, regarding where your food comes from is one thing, but to presume that this is a standard that one should consider is, if nothing else, ludicrous. Nothing humble or practical about this book...far too elitist for my liking.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2009 6:11:15 PM PDT
Medium Cute says:
If eating healthfully, sustainably, and locally is elitist then we're in a lot of trouble. And honestly, we are in trouble with the food industry the way it is. But Kingsolver and her family are sharing their experience, their beliefs, and their knowledge. If you perceive it as "preachy" in a negative way, I suspect you are feeling so defensive because her truths struck a chord with you.

Posted on Dec 8, 2009 8:50:26 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 8, 2009 9:00:36 AM PST
Matt Cohen MD, author Zen of Watering Your garden. This is a terrific book but in reality a difficult level for most people , families , even cooperative families to achieve. Where i live in North Florida the battle of the bugs and other pests is unrelenting. A local cooperative group with a fair number of families participating have similar problems. Watering is critical in certain seasons and mulching imperative. This book is a good guide for what you, the reader can grow in your locale. MMC Zen of Watering Your Garden

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 5, 2010 6:26:25 PM PST
Rich K. says:
If you'd like to read about growing food in the desert, and how extremely abundantly successful it can be, read Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway.
Growing food in the desert takes more time, care, and thoughtful design, but is by no means out of reach of the average person who is committed to doing so.
Someone from Tuscon calling this book elitist is an excuse not to take action, IMHO.
Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2010 7:58:49 AM PDT
M. Urrutia says:
It's a worthwhile book, she's a great writer, and her family is very talented, but it is elitist. From the first few pages where they sneer at the check-out clerk at the Tucson convenience store for not wanting rain on her one day off (as they leave for their inherited farm) to her fake self-deprecation "oh I just do all this canning to unwind after a full day of doing my real work" "oh I grew up as a 'country' kid, considered inferior to the 'town' kids... by the way did I mention my father was the most highly regarded surgeon in 3 counties". (not actual quotes from the book, just the gist). A year after reading this that's what sticks with me more than anything.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2013 9:00:19 AM PST
J. Stensrude says:
LOL, Urrutia. This reminds me of my days of reading Adelle Davis who preached home-grown organic produce and lots of special food handling. Then one of her books mentioned that she had two full-time gardeners and a cook!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2013 7:19:02 AM PDT
Did the family sneer at the waitress in the VA diner? No, they did not. Compare the message of the store clerk and the waitress and there is a diferent 'MIND SET". Not elitist, but an understanding of caring for the land around them.
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Julie Neal
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Location: Celebration, Fla.

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