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Prodigal Summer
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on April 18, 2017
One of Kingsolver's greatest gifts as a writers is the ability to weave different stories into one whole. In Thornwood Bible she keeps the voices of the sisters, including one ghost, all so distinctive that it takes only a sentence or two to know which sister is speaking as a chapter starts.

In this book, she tells the story of Deanna, a National Park Service employee who lives alone in the woods and likes it. Her life is disturbed by the appearance of a young man, much younger that she is, who turns her tidy little world upside down.

Lusa. a girl from the big city of Lexington, is forced to find her own way when her husband Cole is killed suddenly in an auto accident.

Garnett, an elderly man, is fretted to death by his equally elderly neighbor, Nannie.

As we learn more of these three, we learn how their lives intertwine. They are all three part of one story, and the revelations of their interconnection is masterly.
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on September 13, 2015
I don't know much about biology, so it took me a while to get into the book, but by the third chapter, I was hooked.

The author has a deep appreciation fro nature. The book reminded me of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring at times, but wrapped in a story featuring characters that each had their own reasons for living in the rugged, remote mountains of southern Appalachia. Kingsolver's wonderful depictions of the wildlife (beautiful moths and butterflies, rodents, snakes, wild vines, old forest hickory trees etc) inhabiting the forest made the place come alive for me.

The characters were unique, interesting, and believable, age of 8 to 80, each with their own age-appropriate struggles. I feel blessed to have found Barbara's book, and will certainly be reading more in the future.
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on August 23, 2016
Very enjoyable read. You probably need to be a rural dweller or an urban dweller with a strong hankering for the country to really enjoy it. Strong into the need for conservation though given with a light touch. There are three main story lines, two more substantial than the third - though the third adds some additional humour. All the characters are interconnected but only connect in indirect ways. The strong characters are all women of (nearly) different generations who all have solitary existences either chosen or not, and they cope with life in their own individual ways.
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on August 19, 2016
Kingsolver does a masterful job of weaving together the personal stories of three "couples." These six, not necessarily married, are or become deeply involved and the consequences of their relationships are unpredictible and fascinating. The author respects all her characters but the women are strong and admirable, each in different ways. There is an environmental bias incorporated regarding man's proper place in nature. This thread is not only current but scientifically informed and hopeful. Taken as a whole, the work is credible, well crafted and very impressive.
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on June 21, 2017
Beautiful lovely restful beautiful happy charming .. I can't say enough good things about this. Gentle and mesmerizing far and away her most consistently lovely work.
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on March 8, 2013
Barbara Kingsolver is undeniably an excellent and committed writer. By that I mean her prose is lovely and she has something to say - this is not fluffy drivel. Though I can't claim to be expert at the subject matter, I do believe she puts some time into research, due to her books' varied cultural and historical settings.

Nonetheless, Ms. Kingsolver is a writer of fiction, and not, to my knowledge, a scientist, anthropologist, biologist, or other subject matter expert. She appears to be hopping on the environmental bandwagon with a bit of a vengeance - I understand her newest novel, "Flight Behavior," has a strong climate change theme. While a certain perspective, criticism, or opinion is warranted in a novel (perhaps even necessary), there is a fine line which should not be crossed. Or, if proving a point is the author's main objective, perhaps a different genre would be more appropriate?

While reading "Prodigal Summer" there were times when I had that "burning in your ears" sensation that Kingsolver was preaching to her readers. The prose and visual narrative were strong enough that I was able to ignore these parts and not become offended. Eventually I ended up ignoring what seemed to be whole chapters, or at least pages, which were filled with nothing but tiresome, predictable conversations between the novel's characters that allowed Kingsolver to spout her environmental agenda. Some of these conversations were so redundant and simple, I felt like she was talking down to the reader.

With the exception of the chapters devoted to the two old neighbors - some of those interactions had me laughing out loud. These chapters seemed the most well-crafted. While the environmental/farmer/pesticide/natural debate was still a factor, it was presented in a way that seemed to naturally fit the thoughts and actions of the characters. The two elderly characters were fully developed, and the theme supported their interactions, rather than the other way around.

But overall, the environmental facts were clumsily presented and weakened the storyline. The characters and their situations, as profound, rich, and colorful as they could have been, seemed of secondary importance, merely acting as a platform from which to prove a point. I believe Kingsolver has the ability to subtley convey that message without alienating her readers with lengthy diatribes and staged debates. This could have been a beautiful, poetic novel, a love letter to Mother Nature and her Divine Wisdom. I'm very disappointed that it wasn't.
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on May 2, 2016
It took a few chapters (maybe two chapters from each of the three main characters' perspectives) to really get into the book.

Once I got invested, the book was a great mix of environmental education and interpersonal relations. Kingslover does a great job of getting inside the heads of her characters.

I was left at the end feeling a little "unfinished." The book seemed to end abruptly with lots of loose ends. Literary move to leave the character lifelines up to the imagination and philosophical interpretations of the reader, but I would have enjoyed more.
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on April 27, 2013
Ms. Kingsolver is a student of all things biologic. She uses her scientific interests and her expertise in genus and species of plants and animals to make the setting of the novel come alive in a warm and green and tramping-through-the-woods manner! The words seem too plain at times. But there are ways that Barbara has the ladies and the men use those words that twists their outer selves forward into their deeper selves. These people are developing even as they resist change (or try to). The plot that Barbara conceived has special meanings for the reader. The big events seem to become smaller in light of the decisions that the main characters make. The people in this book are so believable -- surely they have been in Barbara's life in some manner. The message about conservation of the earth is woven into the tapestry of this back-and-forth story about two families who live in a different time. The place is somewhat familiar. The time is sometimes strange. That is the pure greatness of this novel: Ms. Kingsolver make a time of our country when farmers were forced / or chose to move into the city to take factory jobs. That complexity of situations happened 40 + years ago. But because of her supernatural talent, Ms. Kingsolver makes those happenings fresh and endearing to the reader!
The experience of reading this book has made me a richer person -- truly!

I highly recommend it!
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on May 6, 2014
As usual, Barbara Kingsolver makes her reader fall in love with the natural world, in this case of the Appalachian mountains of the south. Three pairs of people appear here, interwoven and finally connected with each other, although I doubted that was going to happen through most of the book. Kingsolver is stellar at showing the reader strong, independent women in settings that challenge their abilities and self images, and here she does exactly that in a very satisfying way. But what I really fall in love with is the woods, the mountain streams, the flowers and the animals she brings to life---especially the insects. There were sections in which a widow makes friends with a difficult girl relative via bug hunts, and those became my favorite passages for the love of bugs and the love of girls, difficult or not.
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on May 23, 2013
A dynamic and inspiring story of renewal which masterfully weaves the lives of three women, each of whom have faced different life struggles in their own way. Just as the main characters are confronted with major transitions, their small Appalachian community is also unsure how to react to inevitable change. The stories reflect some uncertainty of personal power, often resulting in emotional turmoil. But despite their struggles, each woman is able to deal with their situation in a manner which remains true to their natures. I admire Barbara Kingsolver's work because she dives "head on" into sensitive topics of inter-personal relationships, she describes through her stories how cultural mores acutely affect our lives and she gently reminds us to consider current problems in terms of what has come before. In short, her work reflects an intelligence that sets her work apart from other novelists. Once you've read Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible" you too, may find that you are hooked and waiting for her next story.
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