I love reading books by Barbara Kingsolver, to the point that her novels take pride of place in my collection. She's an excellent writer with a beautiful voice who isn't afraid to explore controversial areas. Whether she's taking you through the Belgian Congo, touring you through the beauty of Appalachia, or introducing you to the truth of the Cherokee Nation, you'll find yourself subtly – and not so subtly – changed after reading her novels. If you haven't read these books by Barbara Kingsolver, I hope you'll pick them up now.
This is one of my favorite books by Barbara Kingsolver. It was also the first novel I read, and I was hooked from the first page. This story is just phenomenal. It tracks the life of a missionary family who travel to the Belgian Congo during one of its most turbulent times, as it fought for independence. There are members of the Price family you'll love and members that you … well, won't love. They all have their moments, however. Adah is perhaps one of the best characters I've ever encountered; she speaks for the crooked girl in all of us. The writing in this novel is particularly rich and poetic; it has the unique distinction of being a beautiful story that is also beautifully written.
The Bean Trees is a little simpler in tone, but not in content. My family has Cherokee ties, so I was immediately interested in the tale of Taylor and Turtle. You will be too, because this is an excellent example of motherhood and coming of age, no matter what age you are when you read it. It also brings to the fore the tragedy of the refugee, so much so that it's likely to leave you crying – and wanting more.
And that's well and good, because Pigs in Heaven is a sequel to The Bean Trees. Turtle is now six, and her heritage is making a bigger impact. This novel updates you on some of the beloved characters from The Bean Trees, but also introduces many others – Jax, Cash, and Annawake Fourkiller are my particular favorites. I don't want to give away too much, but this novel focuses more on the Cherokee Nation, and teaches the reader about how many different ways there are to define a family.
The Lacuna is an amazing, amazing novel. It is both fictional and real, in that you'll read fictionalized accounts of real people, whom Harrison encounters throughout his life. Again, it's a beautifully written book with a story that immediately hooks you. It's also special, to me, because it explores Harrison's sexuality. Don't worry; the ending isn't what you expect it to be. From start to finish, it's rich and dramatic, often heartbreaking but always breathtaking.
It's been a while since I read Prodigal Summer, but I can tell you one thing. The novel is just as lush as the cover promises. You'll smell the greenery and you'll feel just as fecund as nature coming alive as you read it. It's about more than the flora and the fauna, although it may make you think twice about the creatures who hide in the forests.
Animal Dreams is a must for everyone, but it will be especially poignant to anyone who's ever been estranged from a family member or who's dealt with Alzheimer's. To see the rift between a family is always heartbreaking, and Barbara Kingsolver captures the realism of such a hurtful event so well. This will take you out into the desert again, and show you an altogether different way of life.
Full disclosure: I haven't finished this one yet. I got several chapters in, then had to run back to The Poisonwood Bible. That being said, those chapters are still powerful. You start off on a walk, and it might feel that way in your mind as well – that is, the novel starts out a little slow, but I promise that if you stick with it, you won't be sorry. I love novels that focus on the every day, that include little details about the family dynamic, and Flight Behavior does that without being messy or confusing.
Barbara Kingsolver is easily one of my favorite novelists, and not just because she and I share quite a lot of heritage, from Appalachian homesteads to Cherokee ties. It doesn't matter where you live or where you come from, however; she'll make you feel like you belong to the families she writes about, from the Prices to the Stillwaters. You'll want to become part of these families, even when they seem crazy or tyrannical. Have you ever read any of her novels? And if you're crazy about The Poisonwood Bible as well, I'm dying to know your favorite character!
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