rating: 4 of 5 stars
Yet another Kingsolver masterpiece. Had I discovered this novel first (instead of Prodigal Summer), it may have been my favorite. The landscape is scenic in a tangible way; the characters are familiar yet intriguing; and the internal conflicts mesh with the external in a fluid way that makes the story come full circle and yet flow outward, into both the future and the past.
One thing I have noticed from having read all of Kingsolver’s work, now, is that she takes a keen interest in Native Americans. The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, and now Animal Dreams all deal directly with Native American life, tribes, and conflicts. Consequently, they all deal with a sense of belonging and a sense of self on the part of the protagonists, at the same time. Furthermore, Kingsolver delves into childhood in every single one of her books, along with the process of maturing—which, I believe, is why so many people laude The Poisonwood Bible as her most notable work. Yet, the delicacy and insight with which she writes about this subject is present in every one of her novels; The Poisonwood Bible simply uses “growing up” as its structure, while the rest of her novels weave the concept and process into their framework as texture and support for everything else that happens.
Sense of self is key to every Kingsolver novel, and Animal Dreams does not disappoint.
Codi Noline returns to her hometown feeling more homeless than ever and must confront the fact that her sense of groundlessness is more self-imposed than any external force causing it. I can relate to this struggle, which is perhaps why I loved this book so much; yet I also feel that most people can relate to Codi’s feelings of aloneness and isolationism and search for selfhood, or at least find memories of these feelings in themselves.
Bottom line: Kingsolver is worth reading, and Animal Dreams would be a good starting novel for anyone in need of initiation to her material.
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