earning international acclaim with The
Poisonwood Bible, Barbara
returns in Prodigal Summer
to her childhood stomping grounds
of southern Appalachia, making a stop on the New York Times
along the way. This award winning fifth novel is somewhat lighter than her earlier
works, though no less meaningful and certainly just as entertaining. Kingsolver
deftly embraces new risks, largely in the interaction of setting and plot lines
that carry her message. High above the Zebulon Valley, a reclusive Forest Service
biologist is forced to consider her own connection with humanity when a young
bounty hunter trailing the same coyotes she's observing becomes her unlikely
companion. Down the mountain, a young widow faces a choice between protecting
her heart (by moving back to the city) or pouring it into the land to which
she has become deeply attached. Further down the road, two elderly neighbors
squabbling over pesticides and God are drawn together by their ideological differences
to share a lesson in interdependence. All three plots unfold as the nature within
and around them follows the abundant summer's urging to procreate. Where lesser
writers would turn these fertile scenes into a prodigal disaster, Kingsolver
weaves instead a beautifully detailed, touching meditation on nature and the
connection that all things share within it. Prodigal Summer
crafted ecological treatise is a love story told with Kingsolver's signature
keen observations and earthy, poetic wit. Powell's customers named Prodigal
among their favorites
and it's sure to please others in search of a richly refreshing, heartwarming
and thoughtful read. Lilus, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern Appalachia. From her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin, Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. She is caught off-guard by a young hunter who invades her most private spaces and confounds her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife, finds herself unexpectedly marooned in a strange place where she must declare or lose her attachment to the land that has become her own. And a few more miles down the road, a pair of elderly, feuding neighbors tend their respective farms and wrangle about God, pesticides, and the possibilities of a future neither of them expected.
Over the course of one humid summer, as the urge to procreate overtakes the countryside, these characters find their connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with whom they share a place. With the complexity that characterizes Barbara Kingsolver's finest work, Prodigal Summer embraces pure thematic originality and demonstrates a balance of narrative, drama, and ideas that render it an inspiring work of fiction.
"Kingsolver is a gifted magician of words." Time
"A triumphant return to the southern Appalachians of her own childhood." Orlando Sentinal
"[Kingslover's] sexy, lyrical fifth novel renders our solitary yearnings with a finely trained eye and ear." People
"Ms. Kingsolver's writing is generously well-grafted; choice moments... radiate from nearly every page." Wall Street Journal
"A warm, intricately constructed book shot through with an extraordinary amount of insight and information about the wonders of the invisible world. " Newsweek
In a beautiful hymn to wildness, Kingsolver celebrates the prodigal spirit of human nature and of nature itself. Over the course of one humid summer, as the urge to procreate takes over the countryside, the novel's characters find their connections to one another in the forested mountains of southern Appalachia.
Barbara Kingsolver's fifth novel is 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. Over the course of one humid summer, this novel's intriguing protagonists face disparate predicaments but find connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with which they necessarily share a place.
About the Author
Barbara Kingsolver presently lives outside of Tucson with her husband and her two daughters, Camille from a previous marriage, and Lily, who was born in 1996. When not writing or spending time with her family, Barbara gardens, cooks, hikes, works as an environmental activist and human-rights advocate, and plays hand drums and keyboards with her husband, guitarist Steven Hopp.
Reading Group Guide
1. Why do you think this book is entitled Prodigal Summer? In what ways do all of the characters display "prodigal" characteristics? Who, or what, welcomes them home from their journeys?
2. Deanna is the self-appointed protector of coyotes and all predators. Is she disturbing nature's own ways of dealing with upsets? What about Garnett and his quest for a blight-free chestnut tree -- is this "good" for nature?
3. How does the relationship between Deanna and Eddie Bondo change them both? Should Deanna have told Eddie about the pregnancy? Do you think he already knew and that was one of the reasons he left when he did?
4. When Nannie and Garnett hug, a huge barrier between them drops and they both gain a basic understanding of each other's humanness and vulnerability. Do you think a romantic relationship between them will ensue? How much does Garnett's unrecognized longing for love and human contact account for the shift in his perception of Nannie and the greater world around him? What else influences the shift in Garnett? Does Nannie change as well?
5. The three major story lines are named "Predators," "Moth Love," and "Old Chestnuts." Why, besides acknowledging her respect for coyotes, spiders and other predatory creatures, are Deanna's chapters named "Predators?" Does her love of predators make her the "natural" lover of Eddie Bondo? How does Lusa's life mirror the life cycle of her beloved moths? How does her love of insects lead to her emergence from her cocoon of grief (i.e. her relationship to Crystal)? How do Garnett and Nannie remind you of "old chestnuts?" Are they extinct? Are they the few lone trees left alive after a blight?