Synopses & Reviews
At the center of Deep Blue Home—a penetrating exploration of the ocean as single vast current and of the creatures dependent on it—is Whittys description of the three-dimensional ocean river, far more powerful than the Nile or the Amazon, encircling the globe. Its a watery force connected to the earths climate control and so to the eventual fate of the human race.
Whittys thirty-year career as a documentary filmmaker and diver has given her sustained access to the scientists dedicated to the study of an astonishing range of ocean life, from the physiology of “extremophile” life forms to the strategies of nesting seabirds to the ecology of “whale falls” (what happens upon the death of a behemoth).
No stranger to extreme adventure, Whitty travels the oceanside and underwater world from the Sea of Cortez to Newfoundland to Antarctica. In the Galapagos, in one of the books most haunting encounters, she realizes: “I am about to learn the answer to my long-standing question about what would happen to a person in the water if a whale sounded directly alongside—would she, like a person afloat beside a sinking ship, be dragged under too?”
This book provides extraordinary armchair entree to gripping adventure, cutting-edge science, and an intimate understanding of our deep blue home.
"Soulful and soul-searching....A passionate invitation to readers to be a part of the crowd that cares about the environment, peace, and family." San Francisco Chronicle
"Altogether marvelous....Observant, imaginative, and both lucid and impassioned." Book Magazine
"It is fascinating that in her essay on what makes a story valuable, Kingsolver never mentions the companionship of a narrative voice...when such a voice is her greatest strength." Penelope Mesic, Book Magazine
"All of Kingsolver's issues are worthy, certainly, but the work is made less palatable by what seems to be a naivete....Her best pieces...have a narrow focus. Good intentions and craft marred by sanctimony." Kirkus Reviews
In her new essay collection, the beloved author of High Tide in Tucson
brings to us, out of one of history's darker moments, an extended love song to the world we still have.
Whether she is contemplating the Grand Canyon, her vegetable garden, motherhood, genetic engineering, or the future of a nation founded on the best of all human impulses, these essays are grounded in the author's belief that our largest problems have grown from the earth's remotest corners as well as our own backyards, and that answers may lie in both those places.
Sometimes grave, occasionally hilarious, and ultimately persuasive, Small Wonder is a hopeful examination of the people we seem to be, and what we might yet make of ourselves.
A travelogue of the world's oceans as a continuous system, from the Burroughs Award-winning author of The Fragile Edge, that combines science, characters, wonders, and history.
About the Author
Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain's Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
Table of Contents
Part One: Isla Rasa
1. The Very Air Miraculous 3
2. The River That Was Nowhere and Everywhere 14
3. Another Heaven 20
4. Hunger Island 26
5. The Ornament of the Body 31
6. One Hundred Days of Solitude 36
7. Whorls 43
8. The Unreefed World 51
9. The Epitome of Unrestrained Freedom 58
10. Mirage 64
11. Emotional Ecology 69
12. The Anti-Bodies of Quiet 73
13. Everything Is Already Brilliant 78Part Two: The Underwater Rivers of the World
14. The Distant Geography of Water 87
15. The Ecumenical Sea 96
16. Deepwater Formation 103
17. The Tempest from the Eagle’s Wings 107
18. One Meritorious Act 114
19. Jump Cut 121
20. Lament for the Thirty Million 131
21. All Time Is Now 138
22. Trophic Cascade 146
23. Bone Rafters 151
24. Soundsabers 159
25. Salting Down the Lean Missionary 167
26. The Existence of a World Previous to Ours 176
27. Reading God 184
28. Nemesis 195
29. The Inexplicable Waves 205
30. At the End of Hunger 209Part Three: The Airborne Ocean
31. Serpent Cave 221
32. Black Mirror 227Acknowledgments 237
Reading Group Guide
"This is a collection of essays about who we seem to be, what remains for us to live for, and what I believe we could make of ourselves. It begins in a moment but ends with all of time. . . . I ask the readers to understand that these essays are not incidental. I believe our largest problems have grown from the earth's remotest corners as well as our own backyards, and that salvation may lie in those places, too.
Barbara Kingsolver looks out her window and sees a bobcat. She slaps a mosquito and senses that she is doing harm to more than just an insect. She reads about bombs raining over the Afghan countryside and thinks of the sons and daughters and the mothers and fathers who will never recover from their grief. She hears a story about a bear nursing a lost Iranian child and perceives it as a parable about universal kindness and grace.
The essays in "Small Wonder tell us a couple of things about Barbara Kingsolver. First, that she is a very observant person. And second, that she understands connections: of humans to animals, of America to its global neighbors, of rich to poor, of parents' actions to their children's behavior. This understanding has made her one of today's most insightful writers, and it infuses every one of her luminous words.
The collection was conceived, she tells us, as a response to the terrorist attacks on September 11. But it was prompted by a wisdom and concern that existed well before those attacks; and made more immediate in their aftermath. Kingsolver takes us to places we may never visit: a remote clearing in the Mexican rainforest where innovative farmers are tending an insecticide-free crop without disturbing the ecologicalbalance. To places that seem familiar: her own backyard, where her young daughter is raising a chicken, collecting its eggs, and proudly feeding her family breakfast. She shows us the gifts and promises of her family, her writing, and her childhood. She reveals her own failings as well as the ways our nation is failing its citizens and the rest of the globe. Finally, she asks us to take a look at our lives and see in them the world: out our windows and toward our neighbors, in our cupboards and gardens and garbage cans, at our television sets and computers and bookshelves, in our children's faces. In all these places, across the world, she demonstrates that there is a chance to make a difference, one small step at a time.
Some years back when Kingsolver was participating in a demonstration against the Persian Gulf War, a young man in a pick-up drove by and yelled, "It's your country bitch, love it or leave it!" Recalling this incident during a television interview, she reconsiders the comment. "Love it or leave it is a coward's slogan," she says. "A more honorable slogan would be 'Love it and stay.' 'Love it and get it right.' 'Love it and never shut up'."
Loving her country -- along with her family, her world, and the animal and plant life that inhabit the globe -- and not shutting up about it is what this collection of hopeful, angry, sad, bemused, hilarious, quiet, and loud essays is all about.
Questions for Discussion
- Kingsolver opens her collection with a story out of Iran. A young child wandered away from his home and was found, some distance away, in a cave where he was sleeping safely in the embrace of a female bear. She uses this remarkable example of maternalnurturing to demonstrate that there is good in every living being, and that we share more than we realize with those whom we presume to be our enemies. Can you, like Kingsolver, make the connection between the bear and your own private or public enemies? What does it take to understand, and act on, the idea that "our greatest dread may be our salvation"?
- Citing our nation's incredible wealth compared to most countries around the globe, Kingsolver writes, "For most of my life I've felt embarrassed by a facet of our national character that I would have to call prideful wastefulness. What other name can there be for our noisy, celebratory appetite for unnecessary things, and our vast carelessness regarding their manufacture and disposal?" Do you share her embarrassment? Why or why not?
- How would you answer her question, "How much do we need to feel blessed, sated, and permanently safe? What is safety in this world, and on what broad stones is that house built?" Do you live with much more than you need? A little more? Not enough?
- Woven into these essays are a number of subtle challenges Kingsolver poses to her readers. She talks, for instance, of all the things her daughter does instead of watching television, and then comes to the conclusion that there just "isn't enough time in the day to watch it. Likewise, she writes of limiting herself to one national newspaper a week, usually the Sunday edition. This, she says, along with the town newspaper, provides her with all the information she needs to be a responsible citizen. Does this make sense to you? Are you on a "media diet"? If not, how would it effect your life if you were?
- In another essay Kingsolverwrites of ways to "think globally and act locally." For instance, contributing $10 a month to support locally grown and produced food; only eating chicken and meat that have been grass-fed and buying only organically grown vegetables; attempting to feed her family on food that originated no more than an hour's drive from her house. If you are not already, is it possible for you to take on any or all of these practices? What would be the cost in time and dollars to do this? What would be the benefit to you, your family, and the world?
- How do you respond to Kingsolver's criticism of America entering into a full-scale war against terrorism? Do you agree with her comment that "Our whole campaign against the Taliban, Afghan women's oppression, and Osama bin Laden was undertaken without nearly enough public mention of our government's previous involvement with this wretched triumvirate, in service of a profitable would-be pipeline from the gas fields of Turkmenistan"? Does this response to our actions in Afghanistan strike you as unpatriotic? How do you define patriotism?
- Of the shootings at Columbine High School, Kingsolver writes "Some accidents and tragedies and bizarre twists of fate are truly senseless, as random as lighting bolts out of the blue. But this one . . . was not, and to say it was is irresponsible. 'Senseless' sounds like 'without cause, ' and it requires no action so that after an appropriate interval of dismayed hand-wringing, we can go back to business as usual. What takes guts is to own u p: this event made sense." Do you agree that, in the environment in which our children are raised, these killings made sense? Do you agree with her calling for azero-tolerance for murder as a solution to anything? How would such an approach help address the recent terrorist attacks?
- In "God's Wife's Measuring Spoons" Kingsolver makes the point that since the War on Terrorism, "No modern leader called on us for voluntary material sacrifice." She writes that the word wartime "speaks of things I've never known: an era of sacrifice undertaken by rich and poor alike . . . of communities working together to conquer fear by giving up comforts so everyone on earth might eventually have better days." Why do you think we haven't as a nation made a decision to sacrifice our material wealth, or cut back on our consumption, in this time of war? How would such sacrifices hurt us? How might they help our country achieve its goals of global peace and democracy?
- "Household Words" opens with a scene in which Kingsolver witnesses a man attack a w