Sex… A Book About
Posted 8 November 2009on:
“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.”
I allowed myself the luxury of spending the morning in bed; the sun was pouring through my bedroom window and I felt like a cat on a hot spot, every pore of my skin soaking up the warmth… purr! Also the purrfect spot to finish my book. It was last month’s book club choice, but this was not a book to rush, it was one to savour every well written page. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I had to agree with some that the connection of characters is somewhat contrived and the women predictably the strong characters, the men put in their place… but that didn’t matter. The whole package took my breath away. I was making notes, taking pleasure in the language, her style, her creative use of metaphor and I learnt so much. It could have been preachy, but I found it a font of beautifully presented knowledge. I don’t think I can give it justice in my limited use of words… it’s one I would recommend you try for yourself.
I rationed myself. Everyone loves a page-turner and I could easily have read it in a couple of days, but for me it was something special like an expensive treat from Hotel Chocolat; a little piece to nibble every day and I didn’t want it to finish. Her prose was like pure poetry to my eyes and my senses.
The story is set one humid summer in the lushness of Southern Appalachia, the true star of the book. The book is redolent with sex: ”Here and now spring heaved in its randy moment. Everywhere you looked, something was fighting for time, for light, the kiss of pollen, a connection of sperm and egg and another chance.” Barbara Kingsolver is a biologist, she knows her subject and she cleverly weaves her knowledge between her characters in chapters headed Predator, Moth Love and Old Chestnuts.
Predator centres on Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive 40-something divorced wildlife biologist who works out of a solitary log cabin maintaining the trails and observing and protecting the wildlife, her particular interest being the preservation of coyotes. Her solitude and peace is disturbed when she encounters Eddie Bondo, a guy many years her junior, a hunter who does not share her view of coyotes; they fight, they make love. Further down the mountain we meet the subject of Moth Love, Lusa Maluf Landowski daughter of a Jewish/Polish father and a Palestinian mother, an entomologist, a young farmer’s wife soon to become a young farmer’s widow who inherits the family farm and problems with her many in-laws. Old Chestnuts wonderfully describes elderly feuding neighbours, widower Garnett Walker and his obsession with the American chestnut tree and Nannie Rawley and her organic orchards. Both knowledgeable and both fiercely defending their views. By far the most entertaining and endearing characters.
I learnt so much about the natural world; relevant debate about coyotes and predator/prey relationships, as well as insects and a whole host of other living creatures; arguments about the use of pesticides and the harm that they do; the whole eco-system. The story is not purely about coyotes and moths and trees, it’s about human interaction. Prodigal Summer is a beautifully written testament to nature and human nature. Unlike most books, I found the ending did not disappoint – it was surprising though. I would love Barbara Kingsolver to write a sequel… there is a lot more to tell. I want to know what happened next and like nature and the environment, it is a never ending story.
I will read it again, but next time in the summer, in the sunshine, in the park, within the sound of chirruping birds, buzzing bees, butterflies and breezes… and Val, I think you may like it.