Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver


Barbara Kingsolver tells us a story built on important and interesting themes, supported by small but revealing details, more complete because they give the reader more to grab on to. Her voice in this novel is like a hymn and a celebration of nature.

Deep into southern Appalachia, farms struggle, people are poor, and nature continues its cycles. Coyotes have come back, some fear them but Deana Wolfe, a wildlife biologist, rejoices. Eddie Bondo is a hunter who comes into Deana’s isolated life where she is working for the forest service and living in an isolated mountain cabin.

The novel starts out in chapter 1 on predators saying: “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.”

Deanna and Eddie’s story is one of three winding a path together in and around a small town.  Lusa  Landowski is a newly married city girl turned farmer's wife who becomes attached to the land and finds her education studing of all types of bugs of practical relevance.  After losing her new husband to an accident, her role as an outsider is a life saver to her husbands’ and now her new family.  Close by down the road are two older neighbors who fight over trees, bugs, pesticides and the world.  Garnett loves Chestnut trees and is trying to clone a new breed. Mrs. Walker lives next door and is trying to grow a healthy garden despite Garnett’s pesticides.

As the events unfold, we are moved with how we see the countryside before us in the details.  Trees, flora, fauna, predators, and  immense beauty come together all completing the adventure.

This author is a master of detail using an original approach to bring us closer to her characters to the point that we feel we have experienced a life changing event. An original approach to the narrative beautifully presented by Barbara Kingsolver.


“Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen.” 

“How pointless life could be, what a foolish business of inventing things to love, just so you could dread losing them.” 

“If you never stepped on anybody's toes, you never been for a walk.” 

“I lost a child," she said, meeting Lusa's eyes directly. "I thought I wouldn't live through it. But you do. You learn to love the place somebody leaves behind for you.”