I thought I should probably post the review I was talking about yesterday up. Babara Kingsolver is a well-established and successful author, but that doesn’t mean she can’t still be introduced to new audiences!

Since I first read one of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels last Easter, she has become one of my favourite authors. She is a contemporary American author whose poetic and elegant writing has the ability to inspire and to make you think about issues that otherwise would never have occurred to you. The last book of hers I read was The Prodigal Summer, and this was also the one that resonated with me the most profoundly. It is a slow-moving but beautifully told tale centred around three main characters living in Zebulon County, Appalachia. Each character’s story has a particular title, given in the chapter headings used for each, and it is fascinating, as the story progresses, to consider the relevance and importance of these titles to the themes and characters of each story. Predators refers to the story of Deanna Wolfe, a wildlife biologist who works as forest ranger for the Forest Service, clearing the trails of the nature reserve and running off the hunters who come out of season. Her passion is coyotes and their place in the ecosystem and she is overjoyed when a new pack migrate into the region; when she meets and falls for a hunter whose hatred of coyotes matches her love, her solitude and self-assurance are challenged. Moth Love is the story of Lusa Maluf Landowski, an entomologist who only recently moved to the area when she married a local farmer, and has to deal on her own with the politics of her family-in-law and of farming when her husband dies, with unexpected consequences. Old Chestnuts focuses on Garnett Walker, an elderly man whose ambition in life is to produce a new variety of the American Chestnut tree made extinct by a blight, so that his family’s lands can once again be covered by their native tree. His disagreements with his neighbour Nannie Rawley over everything from pesticides to religion turn his life in a new direction he would never have thought possible in his old age. This description may not sound like the most enthralling read, but through these simple stories Kingsolver addresses very interesting themes with incredibly lyrical prose. Kingsolver originally trained as a biologist, and her passion for the natural world is evident in this as in all her other books. The theme binding the three stories together is the land that they live on, the impact humans have made on it and what can be done to preserve, renew and restore its natural state. If you are at all interested in nature, ecology or biology, this novel is the most eloquent and profound explanation of why the environment is important you will probably ever find. Yet it also deals very effectively with human relationships, with the importance of love and friendship and the complications and heartaches that human relationships involve. Kingsolver’s prose is often understated, but all the more effective for that. By the end of the novel, when all three strands are beginning to be more closely plaited together, you will have been converted to her way of thinking without even realising it. The message and atmosphere of the novel will stay with you long after the intricacies of the plot have begun to fade from your mind. Kingsolver writes about places, characters and themes she is clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about, and this makes for a deeply satisfying and thought-provoking read.

Other novels by Barbara Kingsolver include: The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven and Animal Dreams. She has also written some short story collections and works of non-fiction, including Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life, her account of her family’s attempt to live for a year only on produce grown or raised by themselves or in their local neighbourhood.

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