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Prodigal Summer [Paperback]

Barbara Kingsolver
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Jun 2001

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 young hunter who invades her most private spaces and confounds her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife, finds herself unexpectedly marooned in a strange place where she must declare or lose her attachment to the land that has become her own. And a few more miles down the road, a pair of elderly feuding neighbours tend their respective farms and wrangle about God, pesticides, and the possibilities of a future neither of them expected.

Over the course of one humid summer, these characters find their connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with whom they share a place. Prodigal Summer demonstrates a balance of narrative, drama and ideas that is characteristic of Barbara Kingsolver's finest work.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; Re-issue edition (4 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571206484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571206483
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver was born in 1955 and grew up in eastern Kentucky. Her books include poetry, non-fiction and award-winning fiction, and in 1999 she was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for The Poisonwood Bible (recently voted Britain's favourite reading group book). She lives with her husband and daughter in southern Arizona and in the mountains of southern Appalachia.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer the characters are intimately connected to the countryside that they inhabit and are seen as an integral part of the flora and fauna of the novel's setting--the Appalachian Mountains, in Alabama. The novel teems with life; everything is a-buzz with reproductive hormones--animals, plants and people alike. Up in the mountains nature is getting down to the business of keeping itself going, and the novel's characters are also consciously or instinctively caught up with procreation.

Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, wanders the mountain trails and watches a den of coyotes, while becoming involved with a young hunter; Lusa Maluf Landowski, who loves moths, finds herself mourning her farmer husband, surrounded by his relations and their children. Even those past child-bearing age, like grumpy old Garnett and his feisty neighbour Nannie wrangle over pesticides and weeds, and then succumb to love. All around them flowers bloom and trees blossom. It is a beautifully observed novel, reminiscent of the work of Annie Dillard and Rachel Carson. Deanna says: "So much detail goes unnoticed in the world" but Kingsolver has used her biologist eye to see even the smallest thing. Pulsing fire flies, the powdery scales on a moth's body, cub coyotes playing like swimming dolphins are caught in her gaze. The characters in thrall to their hormones and their hearts are regarded with the same attention.

Prodigal Summer is a hugely involving novel, written with a graceful compassion for all living things and their vital interactions with each other, making it a joy to read. Kingsolver's previous novels include The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven. --Eithne Farry --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"'(Barbara Kingsolver's)...marvellously subtle and compelling tale of a southern Appalachian farming community in tense interplay with the wilderness on its doorstep, contains a deft parable of humankind's place in nature. Prodigal Summer is a rich and compulsive read. Its acute and sensuous observation of the natural world reveals an unexpected beauty, as it traces human love in the flight of a luna moth.' Guardian"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A completely satisfying novel 13 Aug 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I loved this book. It shares several themes - fundamentalist Christianity, the power of nature, family ties and the irresistible thrum of sexual attraction - with The Poisonwood Bible, which I also loved. This book is set more 'down home' in a southern state of the US, but is no less powerful for it. In fact the author seems more confident with this context. I learned a lot of interesting stuff about natural history from it and also fell in love with the characters and landscape. There is an erotic quality to Barbara Kingsolver's writing, which is totally devoid of sleaze and I think she is utterly brilliant. I am rationing the rest of her books out - I want to savour them.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecology, Relationships, and Sex 8 Sep 2002
Format:Paperback
The other reviews of this book are so good, thoughtful, and complete, that I don't have much left to add!
This book is about ecology, biology, relationships, feelings, and sex. The book consists of three intersperced love stories-all three incredibly sensuous, intertwined with ecological themes (the author is trained as a biologist). This book was completely different from the Poisonwood Bible, an an easier read in terms of enjoyment. I loved the Poisonwood Bible, but it also disturbed me. This book was pure pleasure. I did have the feeling that this book might be too slow-paced for many men. It deals mostly with the intricacies of relationships between the characters, and their feelings.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly crafted and compelling novel 26 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
A friend asked me what this book was about - I said "people" - which is true. But I later amended this to "coyotes" - because Kingsolver's passion and respect for nature provides the cement which binds this novel together.
I finished this book thinking "That is a once-in-ten-years experience" - the three subplots are skilfully woven together, and the charaterisations are brilliantly three dimensional and convincing. I find it incredible that an author can so convincingly portray, for example, both a crusty and nearly inarticulate octagenarian and also an alienated, unhappy and anti-social ten year old girl. Her touch is deft and sure - and the her command of language is exquisite. An experience I am delighted to have had.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keystone author 14 Oct 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This new book by Barbara Kingsolver has a definite place in my list of the top 5 novels of this year. It consists of three interlocked tales set in the Appalachians. However, there are consistent themes running throughout all the stories, as tricky and cunning as the coyotes that roam invisibly into each of these character's lives. The community of Zebulon County is very closely knit, with each protagonist distantly related to the others. It is also, in a sense, a community that is dying. Farming has thrived for generations in the locale, but now sons are having a much harder time than ever their fathers had on the same land. Migration to outlying prosperous towns and cities seems ever more attractive to the local population. As one species seems to pause and move on, however, another is quick to move in.
Deanna Wolfe lives in the forest, a biologist by training. She is quick to spot that a small troupe of coyotes has moved into the area. This reflects an unusual trend: despite the coyote being the most hunted animal in the United States, its population has increased. However, Deanna falls prey to the handsome Eddie Bondo, a real hunter. Her attraction to him is at odds with her desire to protect the coyote. Eddie comes from the sheep ranches of Wyoming, and he regards the coyote as his enemy. Almost despite herself, Deanna feels the necessity to act on her own animal needs. Lusa Maluf Landowski is also a biologist. She has been brought to Zebulon by her marriage to one of the local farmers. Her life is not exactly idyllic, but it's soon to be shattered. She's left with the choice of having to stay on her land or go. Although both her parents were brought up on farms, Lusa knows very little about the practicalities of running her own.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book. The separate stories of the two main female characters are strogly linked by nature. The themes of nature are described well and used as themes for some of the characters and their lives. Contrasts are drawn between the verdant and natural splendour of the habitat in the mountain/forest and the farming community in the valley where everyone works hard to scratch a living out of the land.

However, after a while the description and analogies drawn using nature and reproduction begin to wear on you. I also don't think that the character of Deanna who lived in the mountain was very clearly explored.

A good read though.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical but real. 24 Aug 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved the way the author includes her magical descriptions of nature in the story. I was transported to another place while reading this. Nature is the protagonist in all her forms, human, animal and plant . Kingsolver uses her wealth of knowledge coupled with real feeling to create a lovely, thought-provoking tale.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure poetry.. 5 Aug 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
From the moment I opened the first page and began reading this masterpiece by Barbara Kingsolver, I was completely captivated by the beauty of her words. She effortlessly combines three stories into one, linking each with delicate threads. This book is apt for today, touching upon the tragedies that humanity has brought to the natural world, but at the same time delighting in the small wonders (from moths to mushrooms) that are with us each day. Barbara Kingsolver's keen observation of flora and fauna and the interaction of humans is delightful. This is a book to read over and over, on a warm summer's evening with the swallows overhead or a rainy morning snuggled up in bed!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars My views
Beautiful descriptive writing. You feel that you really engage with the characters and become immersed in the environment. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Ms Susan Wakelin
1.0 out of 5 stars boring
i was quite disappointed with this book since I loved a previous book of the author, i think is so boring and slow
Published 1 month ago by MPG
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed it
Having previously read the Poison Wood Bible I was interested to read another Kingsolver book. In this novel there are three clear characters who are both engaging and draw you in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kamejima
5.0 out of 5 stars Kingsolver does it again
A totally absorbing and thought-provoking novel. As always, Kingsolver combines a compelling and believable central character, strong plotting and a backdrop of meaty issues,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Homer
5.0 out of 5 stars Prodigal summer
Slow starter but we'll worth hanging in as always with Barbara Kingsolver a really good read believable character's and fantastic description
Published 3 months ago by sb
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable
This is my favourite book by Barbara Kingsolver; I had to keep reading into the night to find how all the threads were woven together at the end. Read more
Published 3 months ago by curledupwithabook
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
very enjoyable - another great Barbara Kingsolver novel - read and loved the poisonwood bible and wanted to read another by this author, it did not disappoint
Published 3 months ago by Chloe
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational
Ecologically minded people will love this; those with a love of language, humour and romance. Will read more by this author, can't wait!
Published 4 months ago by Cozy Toes
4.0 out of 5 stars Prodigal Summer
Full of interest: the three-in-one story, the ecology explained in an enjoyable way, but I wouldn't recommend it to friends who might think I condoned sex outside marriage or... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ruth Hanson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating storyline
Good role model & moving story. Appreciated the way that nature was so respected in this story. Engaging with cleverly interwoven story lines.
Published 4 months ago by Viv
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