Review by Judy Wyper, PWPA Member

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver, is an enjoyable environmental novel.  Set in an area called Zebulon Mountain in the Appalachians, it is full of the outdoors, chestnuts, predators, prey, and tracking animals.  The characters have different opinions about how these should be approached, and their arguments are lively.  The book is full of delightful accounts of interactions in a close-knit community but overarching everything is the theme of the environment, survival, and the role of predators. Kingsolver beautifully describes the land.  “Toadstools dotted the humus at its base, tiny ones, brilliant orange, with delicately ridged caps like open parasols.”

There are many topics touched upon, which help weave the tale. The behaviour of bobcats and how their urine makes toadstools grow. Predators and food chains. The nesting behaviour of Magnolia warblers. Arguments about killing coyotes or celebrating their movement into an area.  Details about consequences of overkilling coyotes and the resulting unexpected overabundance.  Honeysuckles that eat barns.  Consequences of removing a predator.  Olfactory tracking.  The colours of animal eyes in the dark.  (Coyotes’ are green-gold.)  Longstanding grudges. The precise placement of containers of various sizes to catch leaks in the roof and their musical symphony as they fill up and alter pitch.  Organic gardening vs pesticide use. Raising goats. The tragic loss of the American chestnut and attempts to cross breed a blight-resistant successor.  Mending fences.

These ideas are interwoven in a story that takes place during a wonderful summer season where lives intersect and reconnect.  This is not a book to skim as you read, but to slow down and savour the visit with these people as they make their way in the world.  Any book by Barbara Kingsolver will explore issues of biodiversity, human interactions, and injustice.