Ray's Reviews > Prodigal Summer

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
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's review
Oct 17, 2007

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Read in November, 2007

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 that human beings are not the end product of evolution, just a part of it. Perhaps more importantly Kingsolver tries to remind us that evolution is a slow, long, adaptive process. Evolution rarely happens quickly, yet Kingsolver’s characters themselves go though rapid, possibly even radical changes, by the end of this book. Good stuff for drama, but inconsistent with some of the broader themes.

2. Narrative Structure- nonlinear storytelling is not accomplished solely through an unconventional conclusion (read: Hollywood happy ending/closure). Kingsolver ends her book in a kind of abstract manner, shifting perspective to some coyotes whose existence in the plot prior to the end point seemed added on. Many minor plot were left unresolved as the coyotes walked off into the Sun, This would have been fine if the rest of the plot has not been so plodding and attentive to every detail in each character's life, but it was.

The conventional tale paired with an aspiring, but unresolved ending, just felt incomplete.

Along the same lines, the interweaving of characters and narrative voices is great, but about 3/4 of the way through the book every main character had been connected to every other main character in a way that simply felt over the top and a bit trite. Like, we get it, it's a small community and these characters needed to have some kind of theme tying them together, but it got a bit silly by the final connection.

Despite these flaws, Prodigal Summer was a good read and brought up a lot of interesting ideas and themes. The dialogue was well written and engaging.
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09/12/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3)

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keisha I'm not sure the theme was evolution as much as ecology, the web of life. Important changes in landscape ecology occur both on small and large time scales.

Judith Black Yes, Kingsolver is more ecologist than scientist but don't we need more writers with such passion and power? I am now old enough to be patient with an author who has something important to say.

Cynda Thanks Ray. I have read a number of Kingsolver's books and now know what other writers to read.

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