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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)

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English (132)  French (1)  All languages (133)
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
Prodigal Summer is the story of three women in various stages of life. Each is seeking to live an authentic life on their own terms. Other characters include a man in his later years, a younger man entering adulthood, a young girl struggling with her identity, her mother; a woman facing devastating illness. Their stories, although separate, are linked together. Interwoven through all of their stories are the prose and beauty of nature. This book is filled with the oftentimes harshness of life's realities, but Barbara Kingsolver's words shine through like poetry. ( )
  Dmtcer | Jun 3, 2014 |
Prodigal Summer is the story of three women in various stages of life. Each is seeking to live an authentic life on their own terms. Other characters include a man in his later years, a younger man entering adulthood, a young girl struggling with her identity, her mother; a woman facing devastating illness. Their stories, although separate, are linked together. Interwoven through all of their stories are the prose and beauty of nature. This book is filled with the oftentimes harshness of life's realities, but Barbara Kingsolver's words shine through like poetry. ( )
  Dmtcer | Jun 3, 2014 |
I can hardly find words to describe how delicious Prodigal Summer was. I have loved everything I've read by Barbara Kingsolver, but if I had to pick a favorite by her this would definitely be in the running. The scope of the story-line is small, but the themes are large. It follows three characters in the Southern Appalachians, who are loosely connected, through one summer. Biology and nature play a large role; describing it to my husband I called it an "ode to ecology." But Kingsolver also goes beyond that: while the non-human ecological systems of predator/prey and mating are important to the story in their own right, they are also a reflection of these processes as they occur between the humans in the story. Kingsolver's writing is sumptuous and atmospheric and she makes the weather and the setting feel almost like additional characters in the story. I highly recommend this quiet and beautiful novel! ( )
  sbsolter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Deanna is an ecologist focused on predators, especially coyotes. Two years before, she created a job maintaining trails and chasing away poachers on a mountain overlooking the Appalachian town she grew up in. A coyote pack has appeared on the mountain, welcome because counterintuitively top level predators can improve an ecosystem. She has caught only glimpses. One day in May, as she is following barely visible coyote tracks, she encounters a man who is evasive about why he is there. She suspects he is there because of a bounty on coyotes; he is from a sheep ranch in the west, where coyotes are enemies. She is strongly attracted regardless, and invites him to her cabin, disturbing the equilibrium of isolation.

Lusa is an entomologist who taught a course on natural pest control at the nearby university. The only child of Jewish and Muslim parents whose family farms were taken by force, she has dreamed about farming since childhood. The year before, a farmer from the Appalachian town at the base of the mountain, interested in alternatives to pesticides, enrolled. After a whirlwind courtship, they married and she moved to his farm. One day in May, he takes a side job delivering grain, and is killed when the truck jackknifes. She inherits a struggling farm and a set of sisters-in-law who resent her position, and wonders how to keep the farm viable without tobacco, the only crop that both land and economics will support.

This Appalachian town is tiny; everyone is related to everyone else somehow, but Deana and Lusa are unaware of each other’s existence. The novel alternates between these two women with compatible perspectives and complementary paths. A third strand, initially minor then of increasing importance, has clashing neighbors: an elderly man with traditional views about women and religion and evolution, who is patiently reconstructing an American Chestnut tree resistant to the blight that destroyed the forest of his youth, and an elderly woman with newfangled views inspired by Rachel Carson, who manages a remarkably successful organic orchard.

The counterpoint of traditional views seems an unnecessary setup; I would’ve preferred more nuance. The plot may be a tad heavy on women lecturing men. Still, the eco-lessons are a primary reason to read, and the flaws are redeemed by the descriptions of place, nature and community, and the interior lives of the two main characters.
1 vote qebo | Jan 21, 2014 |
i learned an exorbenant amount about moths... ( )
  Kathy.Newton | Sep 7, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 132 (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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:53 -0400)

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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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