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Prodigal Summer: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, October 1, 2001
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Exuberant, lush, riotous--the summer of the novel is "the season of extravagant procreation" in which bullfrogs carelessly lay their jellied masses of eggs in the grass, "apparently confident that their tadpoles would be able to swim through the lawn like little sperms," and in which a woman may learn to "tell time with her skin." It is also the summer in which a family of coyotes moves into the mountains above Zebulon Valley:
The ghost of a creature long extinct was coming in on silent footprints, returning to the place it had once held in the complex anatomy of this forest like a beating heart returned to its body. This is what she believed she would see, if she watched, at this magical juncture: a restoration.The "she" is Deanna Wolfe, a wildlife biologist observing the coyotes from her isolated aerie--isolated, that is, until the arrival of a young hunter who makes her even more aware of the truth that humans are only an infinitesimal portion in the ecological balance. This truth forms the axis around which the other two narratives revolve: the story of a city girl, entomologist, and new widow and her efforts to find a place for herself; and the story of Garnett Walker and Nannie Rawley, who seem bent on thrashing out the countless intimate lessons of biology as only an irascible traditional farmer and a devotee of organic agriculture can. As Nannie lectures Garnett, "Everything alive is connected to every other by fine, invisible threads. Things you don't see can help you plenty, and things you try to control will often rear back and bite you, and that's the moral of the story."
Structurally, that gossamer web is the story: images, phrases, and events link the narratives, and these echoes are rarely obvious, always serendipitous. Kingsolver is one of those authors for whom the terrifying elegance of nature is both aesthetic wonder and source of a fierce and abiding moral vision. She may have inherited Thoreau's mantle, but she piles up riches of her own making, blending her extravagant narrative gift with benevolent concise humor. She treads the line between the sentimental and the glorious like nobody else in American literature. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Valentia
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... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Jonathan Hoover
A pleasure to read. Loved the characters and the way she wove the natural world into the story. Is there a sequel?Published 9 days ago by Neatnikk
Just great. Loved all the characters and the interweaving of their lives and their different perspectives regarding the environment. Beautifully written.Published 26 days ago by lub
I've read other books by Barbara Kingsolver, but this is one of her best. It has strong, interesting characters, a wonderful plot, and is informative as well. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Beachgirl75
This was an interesting novel but a little too much information about the bug cycle and habits for me.Published 29 days ago by Kathleen Peters
I really loved this book! Kingsolver is at her best: taking three different viewpoints of West Virginia and weaving them together. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is my second time through Prodigal Summer. The first time I read it, I was married and busy as a writer and grandmother to five. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Judith C. Toy