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Prodigal Summer: A Novel by Barbara…

Prodigal Summer: A Novel (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Barbara Kingsolver

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Title:Prodigal Summer: A Novel
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Harper Perennial (2001), Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library

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Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (2000)

  1. 40
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    BillPilgrim: I heard the comparison/recommendation here: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/07/25/midmorning2/
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» See also 291 mentions

English (140)  French (1)  All languages (141)
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
I absolutely loved this novel! Just like the other two books by Kingsolver which I've read, it took me several pages to get into it; but I was soon hooked. I think her way of dropping the reader into the story midstream, then allowing the background and details to evolve, make it more like getting to know people in real life. My only disappointment is that it ended. ( )
  BethieBiker | Mar 31, 2015 |
4.5 stars

Deanna is a forest ranger and has no desire to see other humans, so she has spent two years in a cabin on a mountain on her own, working and enjoying the natural world around her. City girl and bug scientist Lusa has just married Cole, a farmer, and has moved with him onto his family farm. Garnett is an old man who seems to be living decades ago (based on his attitudes).

Deanna's life is turned around when a young hunter, whom she is very attracted to, arrives on her mountain. Lusa's world changes when Cole dies suddenly only a year after they married and she isn't sure how to fit in to his family, but she doesn't want to leave the farm, either. Garnett has to deal with the hippie-like old woman living next door, with her organic farm, who refuses to let him spray even close to their property line.

I really liked this. I loved learning about all the animals and natural life in the area, and of course, I was nodding along and agreeing with the three women as they tried to protect the natural land and creatures around them. I have to admit that the last chapter confused me a bit, though. I've had a slow reading year to start (in terms of how much I've enjoyed what I've been reading) and this is the best one to date. It will make my favourites list this year. ( )
  LibraryCin | Mar 1, 2015 |
Stories of three different people, all interested in preserving the environment of one valley in the Appalachians. One woman is a Forest Service ranger, another is a young widow left with her husband's farm, and an old man is determined to reinstate chestnut trees to the area. ( )
  phyllis.shepherd | Jan 11, 2015 |
Prodigal Summer is a moving novel that explores the complexities of ecological relationships -- those in the animal/plant world and of human interactions. The story takes place in southern Appalachia told through the loosely-connected lives of three characters. Deanna Wolfe works for the US Forest Service, living in an isolated cabin the the mountains. She is intensly committed to preserving the balance of the ecology of the region, particulary monitoring and protecting the re-entry of coyotes to the area. She encounters Eddie Bondo, a younger man who is a hunter/wanderer in the wild regions of the country. Eddie and Deanna begin a passionate affair, but she is wary of his penchant for hunting predators like coyotes. She attempts to educate Eddie (and us) on the importance of predators to the balance needed in nature.

Lusa Landowski has just moved to the region as a newly-wed from the university in Lexington, a quick and surprise marriage to Cole Widener, the scion of a large but struggling farming family that has lived in the area for many decades. Three of Cole's four sisters are openly hostile to Lusa as she is so different in background from them. Months into her marriage, Lusa experiences a crisis (not revealed here) that will drive her decisions and actions thereafter. Lusa is a university-trained expert on moths and her descriptions of how moths find each other to mate is a powerful thread in Lusa's thinking about her life and to the themes of the novel. Through the tribulations of Jewel, the fourth sister, Lusa reaches out to support her and her children and how she does reveals much about human eco-systems at play.

Garnett Walker is a retired teacher, a curmudgeon in an ongoing feud with his neighbor, Nannie Rawley. Nannie is committed to organic apple growing and her refusal to use chemicals has Garnett convinced she is inviting pests to his property. Garnett is attempting to find a hybrid between American Chestnuts and Chinese Chestnuts that will solve to decades-long scourge of Chestnut blight. Their spatting relationship is comical, but one sees a path for them to overcome their mutual antipathy.

The characters are tangentially connected and the chapters alternate between "Predators" (Deanna), "Moths" (Lusa) and "Chestnuts" (Garnett and Nannie).

Kingsolver is a biologist by education and training and lives in Appalachia. The book reveals her deep knowledge of the region. Her descriptions of the forest environment, the human settlement and the relationship between humans and the environment are convincing and evocative. She tells us much about the delicate and essential balance needed in ecological systems as well as how humans, beyond what they have done to damage the ecology, disrupt their own relationships. The characters find that with care and attention, there are ways to restore themselves to each other.

Kingsolver never fails to satisfy. ( )
  stevesmits | Dec 30, 2014 |
I LOVED this book! I can see how some readers might have been put off by the beginning of the novel, is a little strange with the she-wolf business. But oh! Once the characters and stories develop! I never wanted it to end. Beautifully written, wonderful sense of place, loved how Kingsolver intertwined nature themes into each character's personal story. One of my all time favorites! ( )
  jsalmeron | Dec 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
Readers hoping for the emotional intensity and wide-angle vision of ''The Poisonwood Bible,'' Kingsolver's magnificent 1998 epic about a self-destructing missionary family in the newly independent Congo, will most likely be disappointed. But the legions of fans primed on earlier books like ''Animal Dreams'' and ''The Bean Trees'' will find themselves back on familiar, well-cleared ground of plucky heroines, liberal politics and vivid descriptions of the natural world.
In an improbably appealing book with the feeling of a nice stay inside a terrarium, Ms. Kingsolver means to illustrate the nature of biological destiny and provide enlightened discourse on various ecological matters.

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Barbara Kingsolverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kingsolver, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Come, all you who are not satisfied
as ruler in a lone, wallpapered room
full of mute birds, and flowers that falsely bloom,
and closets choked with dreams that long ago died!
Come, let us sweep the old streets--like a bride:
sweep out dead leaves with a relentless broom;
prepare for Spring, as though he were our greem
for whose light footstep eagerly we bide.
We'll sweep out shadows, where the rats long fed;
sweep out our shame--and in its place we'll make
a bower for love, a splendid marriage-bed
fragrant with flowers aquiver for the Spring.
And when he comes, our murdered dreams shall wake;
and when he comes, all the mute birds shall sing.
--Aaron Kramer
--for Steven, Camille, and Lily, and for wildness, where it lives
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Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits.
Arguments could fill a marriage like water, running through everything, always, with no taste or color but lots of noise.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060959037, Paperback)

There is no one in contemporary literature quite like Barbara Kingsolver. Her dialogue sparkles with sassy wit and earthy poetry; her descriptions are rooted in daily life but are also on familiar terms with the eternal. With Prodigal Summer, she returns from the Congo to a "wrinkle on the map that lies between farms and wildness." And there, in an isolated pocket of southern Appalachia, she recounts not one but three intricate stories.

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:03 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

A hymn to wildness that celebrates the prodigal spirit of human nature, and of nature itself. It weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives amid the mountains and farms of southern Appalachia.

(summary from another edition)

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