Prodigal Summer Audio CD – Apr 30 2008
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
HA beguiling departure for Kingsolver, who generally tackles social themes with trenchantly serious messages, this sentimental but honest novel exhibits a talent for fiction lighter in mood and tone than The Poisonwood Bible and her previous works. There is also a new emphasis on the natural world, described in sensuous language and precise detail. But Kingsolver continues to take on timely issues, here focusing on the ecological damage caused by herbicides, ethical questions about raising tobacco, and the endangered condition of subsistence farming. A corner of southern Appalachia serves as the setting for the stories of three intertwined lives, and alternating chapters with recurring names signal which of the three protagonists is taking center stage. Each character suffers because his or her way of looking at the world seems incompatible with that of loved ones. In the chapters called "Predator," forest ranger Deanna Wolfe is a 40-plus wildlife biologist and staunch defender of coyotes, which have recently extended their range into Appalachia. Wyoming rancher Eddie Bondo also invades her territory, on a bounty hunt to kill the same nest of coyotes that Deanna is protecting. Their passionate but seemingly ill-fated affair takes place in summertime and mirrors "the eroticism of fecund woods" and "the season of extravagant procreation." Meanwhile, in the chapters called "Moth Love," newly married entomologist Lusa Maluf Landowski is left a widow on her husband's farm with five envious sisters-in-law, crushing debtsDand a desperate and brilliant idea. Crusty old farmer Garnett Walker ("Old Chestnuts") learns to respect his archenemy, who crusades for organic farming and opposes Garnett's use of pesticides. If Kingsolver is sometimes too blatant in creating diametrically opposed characters and paradoxical inconsistencies, readers will be seduced by her effortless prose, her subtle use of Appalachian patois. They'll also respond to the sympathy with which she reflects the difficult lives of people struggling on the hard edge of poverty while tied intimately to the natural world and engaged an elemental search for dignity and human connection. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Three tales that gracefully connect with each other without ever being confusing for the reader, starting from Deanna, a reclusive forest ranger in the Appalachian mountains who loves her solitude and job but is taken aback by the unexpected meeting of a young hunter with whom she falls, reluctantly, in love. Then there are Lusa and Cole, newly married and living on his inherited farm. A twist of fate and Lusa's life changes dramatically and unexpectedly. And finally, old and widowed Mr. Walker (my own favorite character), a grumpy man in his eighties obsessed by his neighbor, Miss Rowley, whose attitude to life in general combined with her numerous apple trees seem to be there just to annoy him.
These are the cores of the tales, but all is layered in a triumphant description of mountain/farm/country life.
Different subjects are explored, loss, love, affection, strength, fragility, our place and meaning on this planet, as important and valuable as the one of a single little bug living under a leaf. All is delivered by a poetic and effective prose, embracing colors, smells, sensations and feelings in a powerful, yet delicate, way. Some episodes are definitely humorous, others so wise and profound, they bring tears to your eyes. Very touching.
A wonderful tale which celebrates life in all of its forms, a positive message and a hidden reminder that we should all be more appreciative of what, and whom, we are surrounded by.
After I worked past the beginning I was very interested in two out of three of the main plots in the book. The most interesting plot was about Deanna, she is a lady who works for the forest service. She lives there alone in the mountain right above a small town.
The second plot tells a story about a lady named Lusa. Lusa goes through a series of hardships,she works her way through depression and the harsh opinions of her husband's family.
The third plot tells the story of an ornery old man who isn't fond at all of his next door neighbor Nanny .In the beginning I didn't care for the plot but eventually the story slowly tells of his past and throughout the book he learns to be more accepting of Nanny and her way of thinking.
At the end you see how the three plots begin to collide.
All around the book was interesting and through most of it, the book kept me wanting to pick it up again
Well, Prodigal Summer ain't the key to my heart. This book was at best boring, and at worst infuriating.
The three storylines were thinly drawn, with characters that seemed to be motivated only by the loosest characterizations. Deanna = Wild Woman Ready for Life Again/ Lusa = Outsider Fitting in Her Own Way / Garrett = Crusty Old Guy as Target for Outmoded Thinking
The backgrounds of the characters were put to little use and at times laughably drawn. Lusa, for example, was the child of a Polish Jew and a Palestinian. This on its own could be the topic of a novel, but it seems only to be drawn on for comic effect [INSERT YIDDISH HERE] or recipes [MMMM. BABA GHANOUJ.] She seemed to have no before or after, and the reader had no sense of why she married a farmer, other than seemingly to fulfill her family's destiny of having been farmers up until the previous generation. But that was not really explored. There was no indication as to how or why she gained the skills necessary to work a farm, nor why she fought so bitterly with her husband over everything and seemed so unhappy.
Then there's she-wolf(e) Deanna with little of her inner life explained. Why was she on the mountain? Why did her marriage fail? Why did she hook up with Eddie? Why did she love coyotes? Other than the bland pro-environmental arguments she spouted, she didn't seem to have a spark of originality or truth. She seemed ludicrously out of touch and both extremely self-confident and self-loathing at the same time.Read more ›
The hill accents, the actual bird songs, Kingsolver's wonderful prose -- and a storyline that only disappoints when the focus shifts to a new subplot and leaves me wanting to hear more about the people I was listening to! But wait -- the new subplot is just as interesting, the characters just as enthralling. I shall never listen to the coyotes in my woods with the same jaded ear, nor dismiss a moth as just a moth.
Most recent customer reviews
A wonderful novel!!! I picked it up on a whim and loved every second. I will definately check out her other works.Published on July 8 2008 by C. Peterson
This book has 3 great stories that are intertwined so creatively. I really enjoyed this book, and have not read one this good in a long time. Read morePublished on July 19 2004 by K. L. Obrien
What an enriching book this is, informed by a compassion for all that lives. Her writing is poetic and nuanced, like the subtle connections that give meaning to all life on planet... Read morePublished on July 12 2004 by Jay
I've read most of Kingsolver's books, and I do really, really enjoy them. I absolutely disagree with one of the reviews here that there are no other contemporary writers like her. Read morePublished on June 24 2004
What an enjoyable book.
Something I enjoyed about this book was it's representation of the idea that we are all interconnected - not only are the characters in it connected in... Read more
A Prodigal Summer written By Barbara Kingsolver is a very well written book. The language used in the book is so descriptive it is poetic. Read morePublished on May 28 2004
I like all of Barbara Kingsolver's books with THE POISONWOOD BIBLE being my favorite. This book was, in my opinion, entirely different. Read morePublished on May 21 2004
i thought it was supposed to be three love stories but there are only two. the old man didn't like that one woman (although my boyfriend said that was a form of love) and the other... Read morePublished on May 17 2004 by corinne schinzler
this is the worst book Kingsolver has written. It's shallow. I wonder why it was ever written.... contract?Published on May 16 2004 by snowblaze