Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review:: Prodigal Summer

Prodigal Summer is the fifth Barbara Kingsolver book I've read. Remember when I used to be intimidated by her? Pish-posh. The story is set in southern Appalachia and centers around three main characters:

*Deanna-reclusive, anti-social nature woman who lives in a cabin in the mountains and works for the Forest Service.

*Garnett Walker-widower and chestnut farmer. Also, a very closed-minded, stuck in his ways, old guy.

*Lusa Landowski-former entomologist at the University of Kentucky. She falls in love with Cole Widener, quits her job, and moves to the Widener family farm. Cole soon dies in a car accident and Lusa's left with the dilemma of making the farm profitable and trying to fit in with Cole's not so welcoming family.

These three seemingly unconnected people end up having their lives intertwine and they see themselves change over the course of one summer.

This was one of those slow moving books that took me a while to get into and I really only kept with it because I love Kingsolver so much that I felt I owed it to her.

This book is 440 pages long. I would estimate that at least half of that is descriptions of wildlife or various flora and fauna. If you want in depth descriptions of coyotes, chestnuts, goats, birds, apple trees, leaves, grass, weeds, moths, bugs, snakes, flowers, etc....then this is the book for you. As for me, I found it all very boring. Which is sad because I actually really liked all the characters and their very distinct personalities and I was interested in what they were going through. And once I realized-about three fourths of the way through-that all the characters would connect in a way, I was excited to see how it would all play out. Unfortunately, so much of this was lost amongst the overly detailed descriptions of nature. At times I felt as if I was reading a field guide or a textbook. After a while I found myself skimming over a lot of the lengthier descriptions.

Prodigal Summer definitely wasn't my favorite Kingsolver work, but I still really love the way she puts together a story and I respect that she must do a mind boggling amount of research on each novel. Ultimately, even though I really wasn't feeling this one, I still think it's a well thought out, beautifully written piece of literature. Just one that I can't wholeheartedly recommend.


Not Hannah said...

Hee. This is one that I love, in part BECAUSE of all the descriptions. I think it really highlights how much the natural surroundings are a part of life in the rural South, particularly in Appalachia.

Of course, I'm a giant plant nerd, so, there ya go.

Tammie said...

not hannah: i see what you're saying. nature was definitely a fourth main character.

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

Always something new from you....I've never read Kingsolver, but maybe I should. Which one do you recommend (I don't go for all that flowery, descriptive stuff either)?

Daphne said...

Hmm. I might have to pick this one up again (have picked it up numerous times). I'm kind of a nature nerd, myself. The characters sound interesting.

Tammie said...

jodi: id definitely start with The Poisonwood Bible. I really thought it was life changing.

But Animal Vegetable Miracle is a good start too. it was the first kingsolver i read. its not a work of fiction, but the account of the one year that kingsolver and her family ate only things they grew or could get locally. its got recipes throughout and the whole book is fascinating.

daphne: if you're a nature nerd then you may like this one. it was definitely a well written book, just one that didnt appeal to me.

Aleta said...

I really love the book reviews that you give, informative and honest. Thanks for the write up of this one. I'm not listing it as a "must read" as I'd rather stop and smell the flowers, not read about them :)

Tilly said...

I like the sound of the characters and the story but don't think I could stand all that wildlife.

Jessica said...

I do love Barbara Kingsolver and Prodigal Summer is one of my favorites...but I do know what you mean:)

melissa s. said...

I agree, PS was not my favorite but I love anything BK so it stays on my shelf. Have you read The Bean Trees?

Lia said...

I thought I had decided I was done with Kingsolver. I so loved, loved, loved The Bean Tress and Animal Dreams, that I don't want to ruin the party by reading a bad one.
I don't think I can read and make it through Poisonwood, but I had forgotten about Animal Vegetable Miracle. I really want to read that one.

Love your book reviews, too. You are so talented at describing the characters and story-line.

hester said...

I must be a nature nerd too because I quite enjoyed the descriptions of the woods etc but I can see it could get a bit wearing so skipping it is a good option. I loved the natural stuff in "Cold Mountain" too - you know - the apples are ripening blah blah blah.

Love your work, Tammie! Are you going to write a review of "The Time Traveller's Wife"?

Tammie said...

aleta: thanks so much for the kind words. i always think about you when i do a review now because you always say such sweet things about them. :)

melissa: i love the bean trees. its definitely one of my favorites.

lia: thank you! :)

hester: i dont know. i had planned too. but then got kinda overwhelmed by the idea.

Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

Funny, I feel the same way about the latest Jodi Picoult book. I love the author, but I feel this was one of her weaker offerings. Still, I hate to dis the book because I love everything else she's written!

I haven't read any of Kingsolver, I may need to crack one open!! Thanks for the insight!

Rebekah said...

I felt the same way about the book. I felt like the book wrapped up too quickly in the end after all of the build up.

Fortunately, I listened to it as an audio book read by Kingsolver and she has the most soothing voice ever to read. So, even though the book wasn't enjoyable, her voice definitely was

mandy said...

i just got done reading this too! I think she wrote this right after Poisonwood right? It's a decidedly 'lighter' read. hmmn, yes, the descriptions of everything botanical got a little overboard didn't they, but there was some downright steamy descriptions too...totally blush worthy. i really loved this book even though not as much as some of her others.