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Prodigal Summer

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  105,475 ratings  ·  6,859 reviews
Prodigal Summer weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern Appalachia.

From her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin, Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. She is caught off-guard by a youn
Paperback, 444 pages
Published October 16th 2001 by Harper Perennial (first published October 17th 2000)
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Valerie Mauk Keep reading! This book starts to draw you in and, as you learn about the environment, you also learn about the strength of a woman and her undoings a…moreKeep reading! This book starts to draw you in and, as you learn about the environment, you also learn about the strength of a woman and her undoings as well. This is one of my favorite books of all time.(less)
Kathy I wouldn't say that this is about point-of-view in the standard sense. I would say that this is a novel with three parallel narratives. These narrativ…moreI wouldn't say that this is about point-of-view in the standard sense. I would say that this is a novel with three parallel narratives. These narratives are linked by the themes of the novel (nature, eco-systems, mothering, life, death, etc.), but the characters are only tangentially linked and we only realise how the characters and their narratives are linked as we come towards the close of the story. I would say that our realisation of these links is deliberately delayed by the writer to illustrate how the interdependence of parts of an eco-system is not always easy to discern.(less)

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Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Julie G ("Doctor, my eyes!"  Offline for a week)
I promise I could make you laugh if I showed you the comments my teachers made in my high school yearbook in my senior year.

From every language arts or creative writing teacher I ever had: The sky's the limit for you, kid!

From every science and math teacher I ever had: Marry rich, kid!

I often wondered what a conversation might have sounded like between the two camps, if they ever collided in the teacher's lounge. Half of them would have been surprised to learn that I was a candidate for a full
Oct 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Always Pouting
Sep 08, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's always harder to review books I enjoyed because I never know what to say about them. It's so much easier when I have a lot I want to complain about. I loved this book honestly and it really resonated with me. Much of the environmentalism in the book was in line with a lot of my own beliefs. I really liked the characters and it felt really easy to lose track of time while I was reading. ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
As usual in a Kingsolver book the writing in Prodigal Summer is just beautiful and the descriptions lyrical. It is a book to read carefully and slowly and just enjoy.
Several different stories run parallel and tie up eventually towards the end of the book. I found my interest in each story uneven and tended to rush the parts about Garnett Walker because I became tired of his constant, repetitive musings and I wanted to get back to Deanna or Lusa. However I never rushed any of their parts:)
The aut
Tim Null
Nov 10, 2022 rated it really liked it
I knew I had read a Barbara Kingsolver novel, but I couldn't remember which one. Just now, when I read the book summary, I thought, "This is the one!" I enjoyed this book, but I was a little bit sad when it ended because I knew I would miss the main characters. ...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
This is the story of three sets of characters living in the Appalachians in Virginia. There is a woman biologist, a new wife, a sour old man and a wonderful "nannie".

As usual Kingsolver's characters are strong and exciting. Her descriptions of landscapes, animals and insects, etc are so impressive you can be there in your mind.

I loved this book and it's intertwining of lives. My only regret is that it wasn't longer.
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan Rice
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is hot.

It's my favorite Barbara Kingsolver novel.

I came away liking coyotes. And grieving the American chestnut.
Oct 17, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Leigh Statham
Sep 08, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
May 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
L.G. Cullens
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a noteworthy book that exemplifies accomplished writing, interleaving the natural world with the more immediate human bubble, depicting conflicting proclivities through contrasting characters, even contradictions in individual thinking. Also in showing how alike all life forms are, differing for the most part only morphologically in niche adaptation with varying subjective perspectives.

An example of contradictory thinking depicted is one of the characters believing wholeheartedly in 'Cre
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa-setting
My first Barbara Kingsolver book. Won't be my last. It is so BEAUTIFULLY written. Every sentence is crafted - which means it's quite a slow read; no skipping through paragraphs like most books. It has the jewel-like clarity and intensity of Ian McEwan but without the prissy, look-at-me-I'm-so-clever that creeps into his work.

Such vivid characters, each with their own voice. There were clear themes running through the book reflecting Kingsolver's detailed knowledge of biology and farming: evolut
Mar 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Did you know that nature is kept in balance by predators? Or that chemical pesticides aren't so good?

No? Well, here, read this five hundred page book that will explain it to you by stretching multiple moth metaphors and telling the story of three identically tedious women who know best because they menstruate to the moon. These women will encounter men who are clueless about the mysteries of nature just to create the plot device needed to provide you with dialogue between nature women and cluele
Lyn Elliott
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
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!
Paula Mota
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Most people lived so far from it, they thought you could just choose, carnivore or vegetarian, without knowing that the chemicals on grain and cotton killed for more butterflies and bees and bluebirds and whippoorwills than the mortal cost of a steak or a leather jacket. (...)
Even if you never touch meat, you’re costing something its blood”, she said. “Don’t patronize me. I know that. Living takes life.”

The most gorgeous nature writing I've ever read.

Mais do que uma lição de ecologia sem moral
Christmas Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
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 Deanna's
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: repeatable
Reading this felt like being inside a nature documentary, observing and learning and soaking in all the lush dimensions of forest life, and at the same time being a voyeur to a number of human stories evolving around the documentary’s chief biographer and others on the periphery of the project.

As after watching a science show, I think I return this and easily find new things to notice.
Missy Ivey
Aug 20, 2022 rated it liked it
Month of August 2022: Trendy Fictions

This book could have been the perfect segue between last month’s reading topic on ecology, and this month’s topic, trendy fictions. It’s an “earthy” story, which takes place in a small town called Egg Fork in Zebulon County, in the Appalachia Mountains.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like the three different storylines that were followed merged nor were very well connected. I kept waiting and wondering. Now, I’m a black and white reader. I don’t read fluffy stu
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
The key themes of the book are ecological/natural: that Spring/Summer are times of active reproduction and are sexually charged in nature; that removing a predator from an ecological system has huge repercussions, often causing the next layer down to devastate the ecology; that indeterminate pesticides often have the effect of boosting the population of the herbivore insects they seek to control (because of their proportionately effect on their carnivore predators); that man is also a natural cr ...more
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
May 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Kingsolver's artistry is supreme. The issues she addresses matter deeply to her characters and her readers. What is the fine line between man and beast, conservation and man's need to use the natural world to his own ends? How do you fit into this world if your beliefs differ from most of the people around you? Can you change minds? Deanna removes herself, but humanity finds her and reconnects her to the world of man despite her isolation. Wonderful work. ...more
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second novel by Barbara Kingsolver that I have read, the first being The Poisonwood Bible. The venue for the story is an area I know fairly well; I worked for three years in Johnson City, TN, a stone's throw from the presumptive locale of her mythical Zebulon County. The beauty of the mountain woods along the ridgelines of the Appalachians from Spring through the beginning of Fall cannot be overstated, and Ms. Kingsolver describes them well. If you have never seen the magical carpet ...more
Jul 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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'Predators' Perspective 3 37 Apr 16, 2019 08:36AM  

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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.” 115 likes
“How pointless life could be, what a foolish business of inventing things to love, just so you could dread losing them.” 102 likes
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