Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Favorite Reads #6: PRODIGAL SUMMER by Barbara Kingsolver

Alyce of At Home with Books hosts My Favorite Reads, a weekly feature spotlighting favorite reads from pre-blogging days. Because it's been a while since the books were read, these posts are not reviews per se, but rather impressionistic remembrances of a positive reading experience. I think of this feature as an opportunity to more deeply explore the range of my reading interests and those of other book bloggers and readers of book blogs outside of the current crop of new releases.

Do you have an old favorite that you'd like to share?

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: October 2001
Sales Rank: 5,072

Description (from the publisher):
Prodigal Summer 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.

Why I Chose This Book:

This is absolutely one of my all-time favorite books, and high summer is the perfect time to read it. PRODIGAL SUMMER is bursting with love, life, hope, and redemption. And if I didn't already love it enough on its own merits, it's special to me because I actually met Barbara Kingsolver around the time she might have been working on this novel.

As I drive along the highway every day and drink up the sight of dreamy wild chicory and vibrant orange tiger lilies along the roadside, I think of the summer of 1998 which I spent in Abingdon, Virginia. Abingdon, for those of you who don't know, is located in the southwestern corner of Virginia, close to both North Carolina and Kentucky, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and surely one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

One day, my sister took me to a nursery just over the line in Kentucky. Being at least the middle of July and between summer and fall plantings, the huge greenhouse was deserted except for my sister and me, a couple of employees, and one other lady with a young girl in tow. At some point, I realised the woman looked a lot like Barbara Kingsolver but, of course, I wasn't sure. I remembered that she had grown up in Kentucky and often visited. Then I saw her southwestern beaded belt -- it said "Arizona" or "Tucson" -- I can't remember which. I knew Barbara Kingsolver lived in Tucson -- for a long time, so had I. It had to be her! I screwed up my courage and introduced myself. No, I didn't get a photo of us together or even her autograph. The little girl looked about 6 years old, and I didn't want to intrude on what was most likely their mother-daughter time. Besides, I'm embarrassed to say I was way too intimidated (and incredibly hot in that greenhouse!) and my mind went blank, and I'm lucky if I didn't say something incredibly silly. A couple of years later, when the book came out, I realized the coincidence of the timing, and if she wasn't actually working on the book when we met, surely it was gestating.

So that was my brush with celebrity. When it comes to the the book itself, PRODIGAL SUMMER, I think you should hop on over to Fyrefly's Book Blog and read her beautifully written "love letter to Prodigal Summer" which she wrote last October. She says everything I could hope to say much better than I could hope to say it. And then if you haven't read PRODIGAL SUMMER, go read it, or read it again!

About the author(from the publisher):

Equally at home with poetry, novels, and nonfiction narratives, Barbara Kingsolver credits her careers in scientific writing and journalism with instilling in her a love of nature, a writer's discipline, and a strong sense of social justice.

Click here to visit the author's website.
Click here to read an excerpt from Chapter One.
Visit Reading in Appalachia where Icedream has spotlighted the Barbara Kingsolver's November release in her Waiting on Wednesday post.


bermudaonion said...

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors - she has never disappointed me.

Alyce said...

I haven't read anything by Barbara Kingsolver yet. I've got some catching up to do. I've added this one to my list though.

So cool that you got to meet her!

Amy said...

I have only read one Barbara Kingsolver and I really liked it. I recently read about this book in a magazine - 4 employees at the mag read this book along with the actress Rachel Adams and they all raved about it. I went on-line and read about it, all great reviews and now you are raving about it! Enough is enough I'm getting this book this weekend!

Thank you for the recommendation!


celi.a said...

Geographically-tied novels are a secret love of mine. I don't indulge myself very often, because I get so into them...but this sounds like a great choice. Thanks for the recommendation!

Belle said...

I think I'm going to really like this Favorite Reads meme. I haven't read Prodigal Summer, but it's definitely going on my list.

Sandra said...

I've acquired two of her books now and haven't got around to reading them yet. Everyone seems to like her work. I'm glad to know you enjoyed this so much. I'll get to her as soon as I can. My first MFReads post is up.

Diane said...

Now this, along with Poisonwood Bible are 2 Kingsolver books that have been on my shelf for over 5 years..UNREAD...Why?? I don't have a clue LOL

Toni said...

I have to say this was a favorite of mine the summer that I read it. What a lyrical book. The cool and indepth descriptions of nature and the down to earth gritty stories of the people were just engrossing. Perfect read for the heat of the summer. I loved it. Thank you for the reminder.

kalea_kane said...

Gwendolyn! THAT was absolutey a joy to read! I have never read Prodigal Summer. Sounds like a wonderful book!

Dar said...

I've only read Poisonwood Bible and loved it. This one has been on my shelf for ages. I really need to get it out and read it.

Zibilee said...

How awesome that you got to meet the author! I have this book on my shelf, and after reading your review, I think I am going to pull it out and get to it. Great review, the book sounds awesome!