mstan's Reviews > Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
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's review
Dec 12, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: american, non-fiction, src-winter-2011-12, food
Read from December 04 to 10, 2011 , read count: 1

Eh. I was really excited about the first thirty pages, which I read while I was in Los Angeles with my environmental science-y friend, Kathy, and which made me push her into requesting a copy of the same book on her library system...

Then I realised that, wow, I had committed myself to reading reams of information tracts. This was not what I had expected - a year of some gardening failures and successes, some family tensions, and some... humour. Nope, in fact, this book is as heavy as lead in many parts, with no funny self-deprecation to leaven its sobering effects.

I did learn a lot from Kingsolver, and my views are pretty much aligned with hers - only I need to think much more carefully about how I'd apply some of her advice to the Singaporean context. While I've thought many times in recent years of becoming a vegetarian, I don't know a) if I have the willpower to do so and b) if it really is what my principles are forcing me towards. Eating animals that have led happy lives and eating vegetables that are grown without pesticides are more congruent with what I believe in... but how should I do so, in a non-agricultural country like Singapore?

That said, it would be interesting to find exactly where the meat in the wet market comes from (neighbouring countries?), and under what circumstances the animals lived... Living more ethically involves eating more consciously too, and I certainly agree with Kingsolver that most of us don't really bother to do that (except to lose weight, maybe).

Kingsolver's voice grated on me despite the essential rightness of her messages, because she seems so much like the privileged American trying to appear like 'one of us'. There is a chapter in the book where she mentions how she has been listed as one of America's most 'dangerous' people due to her upper-class ideals, and she juxtaposes this piece of news - very deliberately - against the fact that she was slaughtering animals when she heard it, with blood all over her t-shirt.

Then, there was her starstruck trip to Italy, where she rhapsodised over the fresh produce, the agriturismi, the wealthy farmer-who-doesn't-look-like-one.

If only Kingsolver's family had faltered a little in their year of 'simple' living in the Appalachians. If only she had talked more about how they'd caved in to their dependence on coffee - which was mentioned in passing as one of the concessions they gave to themselves, but then quickly used as a segue to talk about fair-trade coffee. I think the narrative would have been a lot more convincing to those who aren't already converted to her cause.

Perhaps this would also have read better in bits and chunks, the chapters digested like the essays they are.

NB: I've never read any of Kingsolver's novels. I am curious, though...

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Reading Progress

12/07/2011 page 46
12/09/2011 page 130
34.0% "It's slow going when I read an info-heavy non-fiction book..."

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