Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesdays Tomes: Prodigal Summer

It's been a long time since I posted my last update on the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Reading Challenge. But it is finally summer--sweet summer--vacation, so I have time to think about books again. My sweet future sister-in-law is the one who told me about the challenge, so it made sense to have her recommend a book for the category a book recommend by someone with good taste.

I don't actually know much about her taste in books. But I know she has good taste in clothes, home decor, and desserts--so I figured she must have good taste in books, too.

Like me, she couldn't just recommend one book, so she gave me a list of multiple books that she loved and left the final decision up to me. There were two Barbara Kingsolver books on her list, so I figured that I should choose one of those. I've actually had The Poisonwood Bible on my shelf for years, but never got in the mood to read it despite recommendations from many friends, but it wasn't on the list of recommendations.

One of the books had themes of motherhood in the blurb on the back of the cover--I knew that wasn't the one for me. Instead, I went with Prodigal Summer.

I really enjoyed this book. There were three different story line being told. I've loved this ever since I read the Babysitter's Club Super Mysteries were multiple characters got to tell their point of view. Deanna is a divorcee who lives in a secluded cabin in a state park and maintains the trails; Garnett is a crotchety old man who wars with his female neighbor about pesticides and other farming practices; Lusa, whose spent her life in research labs, moves to a farm from the city only to be widowed shortly afterwards and left with a farm to run.

I didn't connect to all of the characters--there were parts of Deanna's story involving coyotes that were fascinating, but most of her story involved finding herself and figuring out who she was outside of her relationship to men. That didn't resonate with me one bit and I found myself skimming through her sections to get to Garnett and Lusa's sections.

Even though I didn't connect with all of the characters, the book was lovely. It really showed how much being in nature can heal a person and help them find themselves. That's something I full-heartedly believe in. I'm not someone who enjoys camping--or getting dirty in most cases--but I definitely believe that we need to unplug and just "read God directly" as Emerson would say. For all the pictures I post of Barley and I at the lake, there are just as many adventures we go on where the camera never comes out once--not because it's not beautiful or not photo-worthy, but because sometimes I just need to be in nature rather than recording nature. This book really hit home in a lot of ways.

There were still issues of motherhood--which I will never understand (and really have no desire to understand)--but there was enough else to this book that I could really enjoy it. 

I did have a few issues with the ending--there was so much build up to all three stories eventually overlapping and then it just ended. On her website, Kingsolver responds to questions about a potential sequel by writing, "I hear this plea more often about Prodigal Summer; than any other book, probably because the book is about biological cycles and rhythms, and therefore – as you point out – does not entirely conform to the conventional 'beginning-to-end' structure.  My response is that those characters and that setting are yours now.  You can imagine them doing anything you want." Part of me gets that--I know how important readers are in the process of creating meaning in any literary work--but the other part of me feels like it's a bit of a cop out. To me, the way the story ends doesn't feel organic--instead, it feels unfinished and it seems a little unfair to leave all of that up to the readers to fill in the blanks.

But on the homepage of her website right now, there's a picture of Kingsolver with a border collie, so the book gets bonus points. (She lives on a farm raising Icelandic sheep). There were no dogs--besides coyotes--in the book and while I think Lusa definitely should have had one while she dealt with her grief and the struggles of running a farm, I was ok with the lack of dogs in this book :)

I've officially checked of book #6 in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Reading Challenge. Up next is a book that was originally written in another language--hopefully this one won't take as long to finish!

To see what other people are reading this month, check out the May Quick Lit blog hop.

What are you reading this month? What are your favorite books about connecting with nature?


  1. It sounds like a good book overall, but I also do not like a book that leaves you hanging at the end!
    I have books to read piling up (most dog related) and need to find some time to read!

    1. I've got a pile of dog books to get to this summer, too! This one really was a good read--and I can deal with an open ending when I know a sequel's coming, but this one just didn't satisfy me at all.