Kingsolver wrote The Poisonwood Bible, a book I read in high school. I would consider it one of her most popular writings as it is fairly common to find in various school curriculums. Through my reading of The Poisonwood Bible I fell in love with Kingsolver’s writing style and the way that she writes respectfully and in-depth on other cultures. The Poisonwood Bible is basically and anti-white saviour text, something that definitely needs to be spoken on more often, and Prodigal Summer addresses multiple ecological issues, specifically the extinction of many animals and plants, along with the endangerment of others.
I was first assigned this book during my Ecofeminism class in 2014 at Kennesaw State University, taught by Dr. Laura Davis and Dr. Beth Giddens. I didn’t give this book the in-depth reading that it deserved at the time, mainly due to a hectic semester, so I knew I would need to revisit it later. I’m quite glad that I did.
The interwoven ecological and feminist themes are gorgeous, and I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the settings. Stunning wildlife and sensual plantlife were almost overwhelming, as is Kingsolver’s style. I’ve never found another author who can take so much of the page writing the setting into the story that wasn’t wildly boring, but Kingsolver manages to do so wonderfully, in part because her setting is a large part of the story itself. By writing on (often) lesser-known regions, the thorough description of the setting allows the reader to learn a great deal about the region in which her novels take place while reading an entertaining fiction narrative.
There are three different storylines going on, and each has its own protagonist, though all three storylines overlap and occur in close vicinity. We see protagonists and minor characters in each story mentioned in another every so often, tying them all in succinctly.
I’ve decided to avoid my typical spoilers and give brief descriptions of each protagonist’s story without giving much away.
Predators: Deanna is our first protagonist, and through her we meet Eddie Bondo, a man who seems to be her opposite in many ways. He is hunting her beloved coyotes, but she can’t seem to get enough of him.
Moth Love: Lusa is our second protagonist, we meet her shortly before the death of her husband, Cole. She’s going through the loss of her husband and the awkwardness of being left with his family farm while feeling like quite the outsider where his family is concerned.
Old Chestnuts: Garnett is our third protagonist, his introduction is very brief. It isn’t until his second and third chapters that we learn much about him. He is a widower, and a very traditional and sexist man as we come to find out. This narrative is quite different from the other two, providing a perspective that we don’t see much of in the first two in that Garnett is pro-pesticide and cares little about ecological change aside from that of the American Chestnut blight.
It seemed fitting to read some of this book outside in the fresh air.
Having introduced the concept of Ecofeminism, I feel that it is only fitting to give a brief description of it in my own (slightly educated) words. Ecofeminism basically studies the interconnection of feminist and ecological issues, such as misogyny and deforestation in third world countries. (As I mentioned above, I had a rough semester when I took this course, and I certainly shouldn’t be your main source of information on Ecofem.) Ecological and Feminist issues do in fact overlap quite often; both are results of a male-dominant (or patriarchal) society.
A few other examples of reading on the subject include Wangari Maathai’s autobiography Unbowed, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing, and Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray. All of these texts, along with a few others that I’ve forgotten, were on the required reading list for my Ecofeminism course.
I would like to take a moment to recommend Silent Spring for the fact that Carson knew what she was talking about, experienced much criticism in the scientific community as a woman scientist in the 1960’s, and because she makes thoroughly scientific information fairly accessible to the general public. A lot of what she wrote about is still an issue today, including pesticides and agricultural issues, as well as the impact that pesticides have on ecosystems. Her book pairs very well with Prodigal Summer because both address the same issues, though Kingsolver’s text is certainly more vocally feminist.
Nannie Rawley is my personal favorite character. She also provides us with yet another strong female character, intent of sticking to her choices and asserting herself when need be. Kingsolver does an excellent job at writing characters like Deanna, Lusa, and Nannie. I would say that she’s a good example of a subversively feminist writer in a lot of ways, this being one of them.
There is mention of gender, sexuality, sex, etc. in this book. It is not YA by any means.
I give this book a 9/10.