By: Barbara Kingsolver
I just love Barbara Kingsolver.
Animal Dreams is a work of art, an exploration of the human soul, of childhood and coming of age and love and family and roots and nature.
Kingsolver has this amazing ability to write books about environmental and social issues (in this case, corporate pollution and family dysfunction) and not write a book just about environmental and social issues. It’s beautifully interwoven.
This novel is about a young woman named Codi Noline who returns to her hometown to care for her ailing father. To speak broadly.
If I had one issue with this book, it’s that Codi is sometimes so transparently self-deprecating that it’s annoying. She has been traumatized in her youth, and this makes her convince herself that she is “bad” and unworthy of love. At times, this got exhausting as a reader, but I’ve seen this in people, this tendency to assume that because someone at some point didn’t love us, we are unlovable. This would be a great novel for someone in that mindset to read.
Codi learns the hard way that people notice her, love her, like her, want to be around her, want her to stick around, etc. She learns to stop running. And I think it could speak directly to someone in Codi’s situation.
There’s a lot of hard subject matter in this novel. Death, lots of death. Alzheimer’s. Teen pregnancy. The problems with our government. The problems with a capitalistic society. The irreversible destruction of nature. Dysfunctional families. Poverty. Native-American oppression.
I think that’s what impresses me most about Kingsolver: she’s clearly done her homework.
How does she do it?
I would love to sit her down and hear her speak. Her wealth of knowledge is amazing and makes her texts beautiful and real and passionate.
I encourage you to read it.
Your heart will hurt for Codi, and your heart will rejoice for Codi.
And like all great works of literature according to Sir Philip Sidney, it will teach and delight.
If you loved Animal Dreams, here are some suggestions:
(for other books by Kingsolver)
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
(for novels about society and family)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
(for themes of nature and humans)
The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry by Wendell Berry
New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver
(for small-town settings and community themes)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
(for themes of traumatic childhoods)
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
The Once and Future King by T. H. White
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi