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Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

Animal Dreams (original 1990; edition 2003)

by Barbara Kingsolver

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4,347571,136 (4)101
Title:Animal Dreams
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Perfection Learning (2003), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Occupy Portland Library, Lownsdale Square, 2011

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Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver (1990)

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Codi Nolina has returned to Grace, AZ to teach high school biology and keep an eye on her strong-willed father, Homer Nolina. Codi has spent her life drifting along, seeking a place to belong. She finished medical school, but not her internship. She has moved at the whim of her lover Carlo. And she has come to Grace expecting to leave in a year when her teaching contract has expired. Hallie, her sister, has just left for Nicaragua to work helping poor farmers with more efficient farming. Hallie is energized by life and lives it to the fullest. And Codi feels even more adrift due to the physical distance between herself and her sister. What Codi did not expect was to reconnect with her high school lover Loyd, a railroad man and half Apache/half Navaho.

Normally I am not a person who re-reads books. But this is the third time I have read this one and each time I feel it is new to me. I am drawn to Codi who feels she has no place to call home. I am drawn to Loyd and his close connection to the land. And I am drawn to the inhabitants of Grace, AZ. Probably I will read it again sometime. I feel the book is not finished with me. ( )
  punxsygal | Jan 16, 2016 |
Short stories from one of my favorite authors. I didn't like this as well as her novels. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
An excellent immersion into place and character. It explores the struggle of Codi to find a home and meaning to her life against the struggles of her father dealing with Alzheimer's and their home town's fight with the mining company. ( )
  snash | Sep 15, 2015 |
This complex novel powerfully and movingly explores themes of love and grief, the difficult ties among family members, the bonds that can exist among people of shared cultures, and the responsibilities that humans have toward the earth. Codi Noline, a woman in her early thirties, returns to her home town of Grace, Arizona to attend to her physician father who is experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Grace is a small town in the desert populated by people with deep Hispanic roots and by native people. It is known for its orchards that are the livelihood of many and for a copper mine that is largely defunct but still in limited operation.

Before arriving in Grace Codi has seen off her sister, Hallie, who has departed for Nicaragua where she will work as an agronomist assisting the rural population in improving their farming practices. Nicaragua has recently been liberated from a right wing junta’s control, but is under episodic attacks by the Contras supported by the US government. Codi and Hallie are extremely close. They were raised in Grace by their widowed father who was emotionally distant and remote from them. Growing up both girls felt like outsiders in Grace because of their intellect and height. Their father was constantly pushing them to demonstrate their superiority over their peers. Homer is driven to this by his belief that his family was never accepted by the locals; a result he claims of having relocated to Grace from Illinois.

Unlike her driven younger sister, Codi is adrift. She believes she has nothing of value to offer and is despairing of finding physical, vocational or emotional roots anywhere. She trained to be a doctor, but quit the profession during her internship. She was living in Tucson, working as a clerk in a convenience store and living with a doctor boyfriend who she wasn’t particularly close to. Codi takes a temporary teaching job in the Grace High School and moves in with a girl from her school years and her family.

Codi reveals that she had been pregnant as a teenager after a shallow sexual liaison with Loyd (with the missing “l”), an Apache schoolmate. Loyd was not aware of the pregnancy. Codi carried the baby secretly and lost it by miscarriage, burying it along a river bank behind her home. Her father was aware of this but never spoke of it or offered either support or reprobation.

Codi becomes reacquainted with Loyd who has matured and found employment as a railway engineer. Codi grows more attracted to Loyd and they start a love affair. Loyd is closely connected with the native people on the nearby reservation and through him she learns of the deep respect that the native culture holds for the earth. While they are watching a ceremony on the reservation Loyd explains that the native people see themselves as “guests” on the earth who must behave respectfully toward their “host” and leave the land unharmed from their stay on it. In contrast, the Anglo sense of the earth is that humans are entitled to use it for their gain without regard to the consequences of their actions. This difference is seen in a catastrophe that is unfolding in Grace. The mining company is trying to extract the last bit of copper from the mine tailings by introducing chemicals that enter the river and subsequently are poisoning the orchards. Codi discovers this and brings it to the attention of the townspeople. The devastation will be made worse by the company’s plan to divert the run off by damming the river, an act that will deprive the town of any water. The women of the town, with the scientific background provided by Codi, undertake a grass-roots campaign to draw attention to the environmental depravation. They gain enough public attention to cause the company to cease its practices.

Codi has a difficult relationship with her father who is in and out of lucidity. He has been so reserved and remote that there is no close bond between Codi and he. His insistence on high standards of behavior for the sisters Codi feels is the cause of their feelings of isolation from their peers. An interesting passage metaphorically shows Homer’s attempts at manipulating the natural nature of his daughters. He is an amateur photographer whose technique is to take pictures of natural objects and by manipulating the images in the dark room turn them into visages they are not.

Homer had always intimated that the lack of acceptance of the family was because they were seen as outsiders from another state. Codi finds out that this is not true. While Homer had been in Illinois for medical training, Grace was his hometown. His family had ties there dating back hundreds of years. His perception of being shunned stemmed from his resentment that it was the low social standing of his family that drew the disdain of others. In reaction, he works to make himself and his daughters superior.

Codi sees herself as having no deep connections to anyone or any place. Her low self-esteem leads to despair that she will ever make productive contributions to anything. Her self-loathing is so ingrained that she doesn't see the value she is bringing to her students, to the town’s fight against the polluter or to Loyd. She is blind to how much she is respected and loved. She is deeply drawn to Loyd who is clear that he wants a permanent relationship, but she repeatedly tells him she will not stay in Grace beyond the school year.

Codi savors the letters she is receiving from Hallie in Nicaragua. Hallie’s letters are a source of advice aimed at Codi to realize her value and worth to others. Then she receives the shocking news that Hallie has been kidnapped by the Contras and later murdered. This is so devastating that Codi determines to move on at the invitation of her former boyfriend to join him in Colorado. In her flight she begins to realize that she has found a place where she’s loved and valued. Hallie’s life has brought to Codi finally to the understanding that it’s how you live your life that determines your place in the world. Hallie said, “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is to live inside that hope.” Codi realizes that Hallie's life reinforces what Loyd told her when they were talking about what animals dream about – they dream about what they do every day. And it’s what you do every day that enriches your soul and creates value in your life.

It is amazing to see how such diverse themes are woven so seamlessly into this fine novel. Kingsolver uses this forlorn locale to show how rich the cultural bonds of people can be. She clearly is intimately familiar with this region of the country (as she is with Appalachia in other works) and the setting adds depth to the ideas she conveys. Her training and sensibility as a scientist and an environmentalist and ecologist marvelously informs this work as it does in Flight Behavior and Prodigal Summer. ( )
  stevesmits | Apr 11, 2015 |
I enjoy Kinsolver's descriptions of Arizona but the main character, Condi, just kept on getting the in the way of the scenery. I never grew to care about her past or her tough life or her inability to fit in. She spends the entire book wining and feeling sorry for herself when much of her trouble is of her own making! ( )
  pussreboots | Sep 11, 2014 |
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Barbara Kingsolver is one of an increasing number of American novelists who are trying to rewrite the political, cultural and spiritual relationships between our country's private and public spheres.
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His two girls are curled together like animals whose habit is to sleep underground, in the smallest space possible.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060921145, Paperback)

"Animals dream about the things they do in the day time just like people do. If you want sweet dreams, you've got to live a sweet life." So says Loyd Peregrina, a handsome Apache trainman and latter-day philosopher. But when Codi Noline returns to her hometown, Loyd's advice is painfully out of her reach. Dreamless and at the end of her rope, Codi comes back to Grace, Arizona to confront her past and face her ailing, distant father. What the finds is a town threatened by a silent environmental catastrophe, some startling clues to her own identity, and a man whose view of the world could change the course of her life. Blending flashbacks, dreams, and Native American legends, Animal Dreams is a suspenseful love story and a moving exploration of life's largest commitments. With this work, the acclaimed author of The Bean Trees and Homeland and Other Stories sustains her familiar voice while giving readers her most remarkable book yet.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:57 -0400)

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In this skillfully told novel by the author of The Bean Trees, a young woman returns to her hometown to care for her father and, without knowing it, herself. As usual, Codi is seeking to avoid life, but instead she finds plenty of it. She begins a complicated romance with a former boyfriend, corresponds with her sister, Hallie, who is kidnapped and then murdered in Nicaragua, tries to convince her father that his declining mental abilities are interfering with his work as a physician, and attempts to save the town from the evil Black Mountain Mining Company, which is poisoning the river and threatening the region's future. In alternating chapters, Kingsolver gives us Codi and her father, Homer, adroitly melding two viewpoints of one history. The book's southwestern setting proves particularly evocative: lush hot springs, dramatic vistas, and ancient pueblos are ideal envelopes for characters in deep introspection or loving embrace. The mixed Anglo and native American culture is equally colorful and unusually well developed. It's hard to find fault with this book--it manages to push all our emotional buttons without sacrificing fine craftsmanship.… (more)

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