Cover image for Prodigal summer : a novel
Title:
Prodigal summer : a novel
Author:
Kingsolver, Barbara.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
xi, 444 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
Wildlife biologist Deanna is caught off guard by an intrusive young hunter, while bookish city wife Lusa finds herself facing a difficult identity choice, and elderly neighbors find attraction at the height of a long-standing feud.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
870 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.7 23.0 59169.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.2 30 Quiz: 23953 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780060199654

9780062274045
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Barbara Kingsolver, a writer praised for her"extravagantly gifted narrative voice" (New York Times Book Review), has created with this novel a hymn to wildness that celebrates the prodigal spirit of human nature, and of nature itself.

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. At the heart of these intertwined narratives is a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches the forest from her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin where she is caught off-guard by Eddie Bondo, a young hunter who comes to invade her most private spaces and confound her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, another web of lives unfolds as 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. And a few more miles down the road, a pair of elderly, feuding neighbors tend their respective farms and wrangle about God, pesticides, and the complexities of a world neither of them expected.

Over the course of one humid summer, as the urge to procreate overtakes a green and profligate countryside, these characters find connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with which they necessarily share a place. Their discoveries are embedded inside countless intimate lessons of biology, the realities of small farming, and the final, urgent truth that humans are only one part of life on earth.

With the richness that characterizes Barbara Kingsolver's finest work, Prodigal Summer embraces pure thematic originality and demonstrates a balance of narrative and ideas that only an accomplished novelist could render so beautifully.


Author Notes

Barbara Kingsolver was born on April 8, 1955 in Annapolis, Maryland and grew up in Eastern Kentucky. As a child, Kingsolver used to beg her mother to tell her bedtime stories. She soon started to write stories and essays of her own, and at the age of nine, she began to keep a journal. After graduating with a degree in biology form De Pauw University in Indiana in 1977, Kingsolver pursued graduate studies in biology and ecology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She earned her Master of Science degree in the early 1980s.

A position as a science writer for the University of Arizona soon led Kingsolver into feature writing for journals and newspapers. Her articles have appeared in a number of publications, including The Nation, The New York Times, and Smithsonian magazines. In 1985, she married a chemist, becoming pregnant the following year. During her pregnancy, Kingsolver suffered from insomnia. To ease her boredom when she couldn't sleep, she began writing fiction

Barbara Kingsolver's first fiction novel, The Bean Trees, published in 1988, is about a young woman who leaves rural Kentucky and finds herself living in urban Tucson. Since then, Kingsolver has written other novels, including Holding the Line, Homeland, and Pigs in Heaven. In 1995, after the publication of her essay collection High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never, Kingsolver was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from her alma mater, De Pauw University. Her latest works include The Lacuna and Flight Behavior.

Barbara's nonfiction book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was written with her family. This is the true story of the family's adventures as they move to a farm in rural Virginia and vow to eat locally for one year. They grow their own vegetables, raise their own poultry and buy the rest of their food directly from farmers markets and other local sources.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Summer is the season for abundance and abandon, and all of its prodigal forces are at work in this seductive tale of romance, risk, conviction, and love. In her last novel, the acclaimed Poisonwood Bible (1998), Kingsolver, who came to fiction by way of biology, explored the complex relationship between humankind and the rest of nature in an African setting. Here she writes from home (the mountains and valleys of Appalachia) and dramatizes, more overtly than ever before, her deep knowledge of and profound respect for life on earth as she presents the adventures of three free-spirited and capable heroines. Deanna Wolfe, a passionate Forest Service wildlife biologist, lives alone in the woods far above her hometown. After discovering a family of coyotes, she becomes determined to protect them, a mission jeopardized by her equally intense desire for a handsome hunter. Lusa Maluf Landowski, a scientist of Polish Jewish and Palestinian descent, married into a clannish farming family skeptical of her obsession with insects. Septuagenarian Nannie Land Rawley, an organic apple grower and jane-of-all-trades, feuds with her crotchety, fundamentalist widower neighbor, Garnett Walker, whose dream is to create a new strain of blight-resistant chestnut trees. Kingsolver unabashedly uses the predicaments of her Appalachian characters to dispense ecological insights, praise the old ways of living, and glory in the beauty of nature. Her fervor to impart her land ethics frequently renders her narrative polemic, but her prose is lush and spellbinding, her humor subtle, and her story compelling, intelligent, sexy, and cathartic. Donna Seaman


Publisher's Weekly Review

HA beguiling departure for Kingsolver, who generally tackles social themes with trenchantly serious messages, this sentimental but honest novel exhibits a talent for fiction lighter in mood and tone than The Poisonwood Bible and her previous works. There is also a new emphasis on the natural world, described in sensuous language and precise detail. But Kingsolver continues to take on timely issues, here focusing on the ecological damage caused by herbicides, ethical questions about raising tobacco, and the endangered condition of subsistence farming. A corner of southern Appalachia serves as the setting for the stories of three intertwined lives, and alternating chapters with recurring names signal which of the three protagonists is taking center stage. Each character suffers because his or her way of looking at the world seems incompatible with that of loved ones. In the chapters called "Predator," forest ranger Deanna Wolfe is a 40-plus wildlife biologist and staunch defender of coyotes, which have recently extended their range into Appalachia. Wyoming rancher Eddie Bondo also invades her territory, on a bounty hunt to kill the same nest of coyotes that Deanna is protecting. Their passionate but seemingly ill-fated affair takes place in summertime and mirrors "the eroticism of fecund woods" and "the season of extravagant procreation." Meanwhile, in the chapters called "Moth Love," newly married entomologist Lusa Maluf Landowski is left a widow on her husband's farm with five envious sisters-in-law, crushing debtsDand a desperate and brilliant idea. Crusty old farmer Garnett Walker ("Old Chestnuts") learns to respect his archenemy, who crusades for organic farming and opposes Garnett's use of pesticides. If Kingsolver is sometimes too blatant in creating diametrically opposed characters and paradoxical inconsistencies, readers will be seduced by her effortless prose, her subtle use of Appalachian patois. They'll also respond to the sympathy with which she reflects the difficult lives of people struggling on the hard edge of poverty while tied intimately to the natural world and engaged an elemental search for dignity and human connection. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

This novel covers the expanse of one summer in the lives of several people in a remote area of southern Appalachia. The central theme tying three separate story lines together is the importance, and fragility, of the biological ecosystems found in the natural world. This precarious balance between humans and everything elseDplants, bugs, moths, and mammalsDis examined, tested, rejected, and rejoiced in by a collage of characters, who include Deanna Wolfe, the park ranger who tries to protect a pack of coyotes that miraculously appear on Zebulon Mountain; Lusa Landowski, a city girl with a degree in entomology who raises and sells goat kids; and feuding neighbors Garnett Walker and Nannie Rawley. To follow The Poisonwood Bible would be a daunting task for any writer; for Kingsolver, it would seem to be just about spinning another marvelous, magical yarn, only in a different locale and filled with another batch of endearing, honest people. This time her message is about the environment and intelligent women who are more comfortable with a love of nature than love with a man. Kingsolver reads her own words as lyrically as she writes them. Very highly recommended for all public and academic libraries with audio literature collections.DGloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Prodigal Summer Chapter One Predators Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen. All secrets are witnessed. If someone in this forest had been watching her -- a man with a gun, for instance, hiding inside a copse of leafy beech trees -- he would have noticed how quickly she moved up the path and how direly she scowled at the ground ahead of her feet. He would have judged her an angry woman on the trail of something hateful. He would have been wrong. She was frustrated, it's true, to be following tracks in the mud she couldn't identify. She was used to being sure. But if she'd troubled to inspect her own mind on this humid, sunlit morning, she would have declared herself happy. She loved the air after a hard rain, and the way a forest of dripping leaves fills itself with a sibilant percussion that empties your head of words. Her body was free to follow its own rules: a long-legged gait too fast for companionship, unself-conscious squats in the path where she needed to touch broken foliage, a braid of hair nearly as thick as her forearm falling over her shoulder to sweep the ground whenever she bent down. Her limbs rejoiced to be outdoors again, out of her tiny cabin whose log walls had grown furry and overbearing during the long spring rains. The frown was pure concentration, nothing more. Two years alone had given her a blind person's indifference to the look on her own face. All morning the animal trail had led her uphill, ascending the mountain, skirting a rhododendron slick, and now climbing into an old-growth forest whose steepness had spared it from ever being logged. But even here, where a good oak-hickory canopy sheltered the ridge top, last night's rain had pounded through hard enough to obscure the tracks. She knew the animal's size from the path it had left through the glossy undergrowth of mayapples, and that was enough to speed up her heart. It could be what she'd been looking for these two years and more. This lifetime. But to know for sure she needed details, especially the faint claw mark beyond the toe pad that distinguishes canid from feline. That would be the first thing to vanish in a hard rain, so it wasn't going to appear to her now, however hard she looked. Now it would take more than tracks, and on this sweet, damp morning at the beginning of the world, that was fine with her. She could be a patient tracker. Eventually the animal would give itself away with a mound of scat (which might have dissolved in the rain, too) or something else, some sign particular to its species. A bear will leave claw marks on trees and even bite the bark sometimes, though this was no bear. It was the size of a German shepherd, but no house pet, either. The dog that had laid this trail, if dog it was, would have to be a wild and hungry one to be out in such a rain. She found a spot where it had circled a chestnut stump, probably for scent marking. She studied the stump: an old giant, raggedly rotting its way backward into the ground since its death by ax or blight. Toadstools dotted the humus at its base, tiny ones, brilliant orange, with delicately ridged caps like open parasols. The downpour would have obliterated such fragile things; these must have popped up in the few hours since the rain stopped -- after the animal was here, then. Inspired by its ammonia. She studied the ground for a long time, unconscious of the elegant length of her nose and chin in profile, unaware of her left hand moving near her face to disperse a cloud of gnats and push stray hair out of her eyes. She squatted, steadied herself by placing her fingertips in the moss at the foot of the stump, and pressed her face to the musky old wood. Inhaled. "Cat," she said softly, to nobody. Not what she'd hoped for, but a good surprise to find evidence of a territorial bobcat on this ridge. The mix of forests and wetlands in these mountains could be excellent core habitat for cats, but she knew they mostly kept to the limestone river cliffs along the Virginia-Kentucky border. And yet here one was. It explained the cries she'd heard two nights ago, icy shrieks in the rain, like a woman's screaming. She'd been sure it was a bobcat but still lost sleep over it. No human could fail to be moved by such human-sounding anguish. Remembering it now gave her a shiver as she balanced her weight on her toes and pushed herself back upright to her feet. And there he stood, looking straight at her. He was dressed in boots and camouflage and carried a pack larger than hers. His rifle was no joke -- a thirty-thirty, it looked like. Surprise must have stormed all over her face before she thought to arrange it for human inspection. It happened, that she ran into hunters up here. But she always saw them first. This one had stolen her advantage -- he'd seen inside her."Eddie Bondo," is what he'd said, touching his hat brim, though it took her a moment to work this out. "What?" "That's my name." "Good Lord," she said, able to breathe out finally. "I didn't ask your name." "You needed to know it, though." Cocky, she thought. Or cocked, rather. Like a rifle, ready to go off. "What would I need your name for? You fixing to give me a story I'll want to tell later?" she asked quietly. It was a... Prodigal Summer . Copyright © by Barbara Kingsolver. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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