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Prodigal Summer: A Novel

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  77,228 Ratings  ·  4,993 Reviews
Barbara Kingsolver's fifth novel is a hymn to wildness that celebrates the prodigal spirit of human nature, and of nature itself. It weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives amid the mountains and farms of southern Appalachia. Over the course of one humid summer, this novel's intriguing protagonists face disparate predicaments but find ...more
ebook, 464 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2000)
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Cynda Garza One thing I see missing from many of the reviews is making note that is is a "green or ecological novel." The point of view may be bigger than the…moreOne thing I see missing from many of the reviews is making note that is is a "green or ecological novel." The point of view may be bigger than the story lines. It may be the point of view of the Earth? Perhaps?(less)
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Community Reviews

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Laura
Jul 29, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lots of different subplots that eventually intertwine, includes a love story too. She writes very lyrically, you'll want to savor this one. Nature / animal lovers will appreciate this one too. Something for everyone, this one is probably in my all time top 10 or 15 list.

2nd reading: This is not a book to read but a book to feel. It's a book you feel the truth and the rightness of, down deep in your gut.
meredith
Oct 21, 2007 meredith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ok. What gives, Kingsolver?
I have adored her work for years, and had this particular book sitting on my shelf for a long time unread. I picked it up to read recently, and went "oh yeah, that's why". i'd tried previous times to read it and couldn't "get into it". I'm usually a stickler for the "getting in to it" factor. if something doesnt hold my attention, or is downright fucking painful, within the first chapter, i have to ditch it.

but no. i gave Barb K the benefit of the doubt. i mean, she wr
...more
Heather
Mar 13, 2010 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't want it to end! :( There's still much life for these characters to lead and I want to be there for it! Although I guess it has to end somewhere...

The BEAUTIFUL NATURAL WORLD she gives - my kingdom to know so much and be so deeply involved in the real world around me. (This week, I met the wooly bear caterpillar and the granite spiny lizard at Mission Trails, both locals. I can't wait to meet more and learn about more. Thank goodness for parks and rangers - at least SOMEONE is maintainin
...more
Ray
Dec 11, 2007 Ray rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read Barbara Kingsolver maybe 10 years ago and really liked her. Since then, I've discovered authors like Edna Forbes and Alice Hoffman who also both have an interest in the lives of rural women, rich narratives and, sometimes magical realism. That said, Kingsolver is still very much at the top of this field. However, this book left me somewhat disappointed by the end for two reasons:

1. Big themes- without spoiling too much, the theme of this book is that evolution is always going on and
...more
Kathryn
Jul 16, 2008 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathryn by: Tyler & Melanie
Overall, a delightful, thoughtful and refreshing novel. I loved the pure joy, the contagious adoration, for nature — from top predators to insects to extinct trees to blossoming weeds — that shines through the pages. (My only real gripe with the book is that, on occasion, this love morphs into rather a preachy cautionary tale, or scolding—it could still have been powerfully ecological and progressive without the few soap-box passages.) Another message is the sometimes-lovely, sometimes-scary, ev ...more
Leigh Statham
Sep 08, 2007 Leigh Statham rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with bizare sexual fantasies about nature
I think my favorite line of "poetry" from this book is "He made love to me like a farmer!" She then goes on to talk about milking cows and tilling the land while describing their love making. Maybe I've just known too many farmers in my life and found none of them in the least bit attractive. There is nothing romantic about the smell of manure on a man. And anyway, I think that line sums up the depth of this book pretty well. From the first chapter I knew I was in trouble when one of the leading ...more
Brenda
Apr 07, 2008 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible so much that for some reason I delayed reading this one (does that make sense?). I just liked the idea of another unread novel by her being out there, waiting for me to read -- something I was saving like a piece of rich dark chocolate.

Her descriptions of the natural world are lovely. The relationships are complex and sexy and intriguing. My favorite story line is the romance between Deanna and Eddie. It reminds me of the romance in "The River Why", anoth
...more
 Carol ♛ Type, Oh Queen! ♛
Jan 21, 2016 Carol ♛ Type, Oh Queen! ♛ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Trish since she loves this author
I had to create a new shelf for this book as I couldn't put it on my literary fiction shelf as I don't believe people will be reading this book in a hundred (or even fifty) years time. & it was too "heavy" to be categorised as chick lit.

I had a lot of problems with this book.

For one thing, it featured multiple points of view - which I'm not a fan of. At least it didn't go back & forth in time as well.

I was far more interested in Lusa's story than the other two - although my interest in D
...more
Bethany
Jun 21, 2008 Bethany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all readers
Recommended to Bethany by: It was a gift from my mother
This is my favorite of Barbara Kingsolver's fiction.

Three stories weave together into a beautiful story of nature, love, and family. The biology Kingsolver integrates in the narrative is educational and fascinating.

The three threads begin with "Predators" which follows Deanna, who is a Forest Preserve ranger and lives alone in a small cabin high upon Zebulon Mountain. She unexpectedly begins a romance with a roaming coyote poacher, although Deanna is working tirelessly to protect a hidden den o
...more
Lyn Elliott
Reading this is a joyous experience. Other people have written long and thoughtful reviews but I'll just say that I loved its exuberance - a light exuberance, not at all boisterous - and its gentle, often funny, exploration of family and neighbourly 'business'.
I returned it to the friend who lent it to me and bought a copy to keep. She had said 'Try this' when I confessed I had never been able to get into The Poisonwood Bible, didn't want to read about missionaries in Africa. Thank you Lisa!
Tom
Aug 26, 2008 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prodigal Summer tells the stories of several different people clustered around a deep valley in Southern Appalachia. Deana is wildlife biologist who works for the forest service. She enjoys her hermitic existence living in a cabin on a mountain, keeping track of the wildlife in the National Forest. This all changes when a young hunter comes into her life, for whom she feels a strong physical desire. Lusa is an academic who marries a farmer from the valley, and moves with him onto his farm. She i ...more
Michael
Feb 23, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read and enjoyed all of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels but “Prodigal Summer” stands out for me. The opening lines promise that you’re going on a journey into the minds of memorable characters: “Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human presumption.” What follows doesn’t disappoint.

Three parallel stories unfold of characters quite unalike on the surface and yet connected in deeper ways that resonate profoundly. It would have been easy – and
...more
Annika
May 10, 2011 Annika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very descriptive and calming. Three stories tied into one, and cleaned up neatly at the end. A good summertime read.

I read this book again, so I can write a better review, since this book definitely deserves a second thought.

This is a book to be savored, meaning, it is not a light easy read, and it isn't fluff. It isn't loaded with heavy issues (Barbara Kingsolver's "Poisonwood Bible" is definitely a heavier chunk o' reading compared to this) but I feel to truly appreciate "Prodigal Summer", one
...more
Beth F.
Except when I go camping, I don’t spend a lot of time or energy thinking about ecology. Much like indoor plumbing, I think it’s a good thing and I’m glad there are folks out in the world who are knowledgeable about it, but neither are something I’m especially passionate about. And that is probably why a copy of this book has been sitting on my physical bookshelf for approximately five or six years.

I’ve read and enjoyed other books by this author and have had other people recommend this book spe
...more
Debbie
Sep 14, 2015 Debbie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Circle of Life

In this book author Barbara Kingsolver really takes the liberty within this book to assert her views on the circle of life, nature, the land, plant, animal and human life existing in conjunction to each other. She rolls this philosophy up into the lives of three main characters who live two in a small town and one in the mountains above the town in the Appalachias. Deanna has been living as a forest services ranger for two years and studying the wild life peacefully before Ed
...more
Sally Howes
The family is the glue that holds human civilization together. In PRODIGAL SUMMER, Kingsolver demonstrates that the foundations of the earth are also the foundations of the family, that there is no "human" without "nature." As Nannie Rawley says, "Everything alive is connected to every other by fine, invisible threads." A human community is just another kind of ecosystem, supported, nourished, and made possible by the natural world. The novel follows three different people through their three di ...more
Beth
Aug 03, 2012 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
I liked this book, and I liked the message, but even though I agreed with her it was a little preachy. All the characters kept getting in arguments that involved long exposition about how important each species is to the balance of nature all around it. She didn't just leave it there, which was a relief. I mean, there were those for preserving nature and growing organically and so on, and the ones who opposed them were portrayed as appearing kind of dumb at first, but then as those people were e ...more
Naomi
Feb 13, 2009 Naomi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book at a library sale and was so excited because I just loved The Poisonwood Bible by her; I could not stop talking about it. This book was kind of disappointing in that it took me until about page 162 to get into it, and even then, it wasn't the life-changer that the other one was. But, it did get me thinking about gardening and beekeeping and fun things I'd like to do someday. There was a lot of sex in it. In fact, the whole book was about reproduction and evolutions of all kind ...more
Cindy
Aug 12, 2010 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nature lovers
Barbara Kingsolver has this ability to set a scene, and make it feel so lush. She really hits on all the senses, and that just pulls me right in to the story as if I'm watching the fireflies in a briar patch on a sweltering summer night in Appalachia. Not to mention all the steamy sexy scenes! Ha-cha!

The story is a summer in the life of 3 women near a small town in rural Kentucky, told from alternating points-of-view. The book doesn't have a traditional plot-arc but more of the day-in-the-life f
...more
Karah
Sep 21, 2008 Karah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Trisha
Shelves: favorites
Calling all nature lovers! I really loved this book and think that if anyone loves summer and living things and plants and animals and learning about nature, they will love it too! It wasn't exactly a page-turner in that I had to pick it up every second I wasn't reading, but it was extremely interesting. It took place in the summer and ends in autumn so it was kind of neat to start it towards the end of summer and end it as fall was beginning. If you've never read Barbara Kingsolver, her books a ...more
Emma
May 28, 2007 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This novel, which jumps back and forth through the lives and stories of a few strong characters, really gets to the core of what life is about and how people tend to deal with it. I find this book really easy to connect with. The characters are very real and very honest, they have faults but they confront them. This book is full of passion, romance, strong friendships, deceit, hard choices and many other disturbing and encompassing aspects of human nature. It is amazingly easy to get attached to ...more
Jan Rice
This book is hot.

It's my favorite Barbara Kingsolver novel.

I came away liking coyotes. And grieving the American chestnut.
Anne
Dec 17, 2007 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the second book I read by Kingslover, and I admit, a little leery as Poisonwood Bible was the my only experience and that book sincerely disappointed; however, Prodigal Summer was a sheer delight and I'm glad I tried another novel by Kingslover.

This novel is feast for anyone who celebrates nature writing. Kingslover captures the essence of the blue ridge mountains in Virginia and all the competing interests that are being grappled with in this region today.

Besides the joy this book giv
...more
Mack
Dec 27, 2015 Mack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Prodigal Summer and the three intertwining stories with a good moral to the story and ecological questions throughout - it was my type of language and my first Kingsolver novel read. An enriching story capturing the essence of the natural beauty of the world. The characters were full of life, the natural world a motivating crusade and life continued on in its unpredictable and messy way.
‘ The world was what it was, a place with its own rules of hunger and satisfaction. Creature
...more
Jessica
May 27, 2007 Jessica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
okay, so this is my mad dash back to the bookstore at the airport book. i chose it because i liked the poisonwood bible so much. this is definitely much different, and if i would have read the inside cover reviews (calling the novel "sexually exuberant") i wouldn't have bought it. however, i'm not all the way done with it, but i've been kind of sucked into the storylines now and i can't NOT finish it. so, the jury's still out.

okay, so i just finished and i was bugged by the ending. it didn't hav
...more
booklady
Prodigal Summer is three different stories all set in the farms and mountains of Appalachia. For most of the book the tri-fold plots remain distinct entities. They are tied neatly together towards the novel’s end. The text is rich with evocative descriptions which make even the mating rituals of insects seem erotic. Kingsolver uses this work of fiction to teach us about the importance of predators to the overall balance of nature. Fiction is usually better when the author’s agenda isn’t quite so ...more
Sally Pearce
Mar 27, 2011 Sally Pearce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves to read
When I first started this book, I wrote, "Kingsolver seduces the reader into the book with her lyrical and poetic writing.". If I'd only known how prophetic that was! This is a beautiful book to be read slowly and savored.

The story takes place over one summer and tells three stories of love. The language and phrasing is so beautiful that I had to stop periodically and let what I had read sink in. It literally took my breath away in so many places.

This is not a "beach read". You need time to abso
...more
Imogen
Sep 21, 2008 Imogen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, here's the thing, Oriana. I always think that I don't like long novels, but whenever I get through a hundred pages of one and find myself in the world of that novel, I'm sucked in and I love it. (And by "long novel" I think I mean, like, more than 300 pages. I LIKE to have read stuff!) So it took me a while to get into this one, and then realize that it's so much about just animals and the woods and small towns and, kind of, the way the whole world works.

Which I guess is the domain of soc
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Jun 25, 2008 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeanette by: Julie
This is really sort of three novels in one: Predators, Moth Love, and Old Chestnuts. The book alternates among the three stories, which take place within a few miles of each other. The stories do turn out to be related in the end, but each reads like a separate story. I liked the Moth Love thread the best out of the three.

The stories themselves rated about 3 to 3.5 stars for me, but I'm bumping it up to four stars overall because of the author's knowledge and beautiful writing about the natural
...more
Erica Miles
Apr 10, 2016 Erica Miles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has got to be the most gorgeous, erotic, and sensual book I have ever read. In terms of sexual content, more subtle than D. H. Lawrence, but from both a male and female point of view. The book shifts from different POVs between an isolated female ranger who tracks carnivores in a National park and those of her friendly but often feuding Christian neighbors who make their living as farmers. Flitting between scenes of naked or sexily clad humans, from moths to sheep to cows to Billy goats tha ...more
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Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in Africa in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in Biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her most famous works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, ...more
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“Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen.” 94 likes
“How pointless life could be, what a foolish business of inventing things to love, just so you could dread losing them.” 79 likes
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