A read-along of Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver (II)

Some weeks ago I saw a nest in one of the plants in the yard. The nest was small enough to fit in one hand, and in it, two eggs slightly bigger than my thumbnail. I first noticed it when I saw the bird, more precisely the white around her eyes which made a contrast in the shadow of the plant. Days later, when I looked at the nest again, I saw two chicks, bald and skinny, moving restlessly inside.
It occurred to me at that time that I should take some pictures, but I finally got around to doing it when the third round of chicks had hatched. Well, almost. I took this picture more than a week ago, and after a few days there was one chick who opened her beak soundlessly, then let its head drop on the egg in front if it, as if falling instantly asleep. That got me thinking about Deanna, one of the characters in the book, and how she tried to take care of the little bird family who lived in the eaves of her cabin. Eddie had told her that if someone scared mama bird away at night she won’t come back to the nest because she can’t see in the dark (apparently, most birds can’t), and the hatchlings would die of exposure during the night. That made me wonder why, when I went to check up this morning, the nest was empty. Did I scare mama bird away or were my three dogs responsible with their disappearance? One mystery I’m afraid I won’t find the answer to.


Part 2, Chapters 9 – 18

Chapter 9 starts with Garnett and a little of his family history – how he worked along the years for his dream of restoring the American chestnut to its native soil, and of course, his everlasting feud with Nannie, his next door neighbor. He is stubborn and old-fashioned and she is outspoken and leads her life the way she wants to and their opinions collide every time they meet. Until one day when she helps him and he starts changing his mind.

In the meantime, Lusa is thinking of ways to keep her farm and making money without having to plant tobacco, like it was done before she came to live there. With the help of her relatives she slowly starts to build a life and a future for her farm.

Deanna continues to live in the forest with Eddie, and their relationship seems to grow each day, in the little cabin isolated like a cocoon in the forest. Apart from a boy who comes up to bring her provisions once a month, they are undisturbed and live like some sort of Adam and Eve, forgotten by the world, free to roam the forest and talk about its creatures. There’s an encounter with a snake, a glimpse of a coyote den, more facts about moths and plants. But just like Deanna wants to protect all creatures in the forest, she knows Eddie is a hunter. The tension between them builds slowly and there are hints of what might happen in the future.

Characters’ lives start to merge, when Deanna tells Eddie about Nannie and Lusa is told that Garrett can help with the business idea she wants to implement on her farm. Relationships between Lusa and her husband’s family start to coalesce into something more substantial, when one of her sisters-in-law becomes sick and Lusa offers to take care of her children.

This time I felt more involved in the life of the characters. The author introduces each event so gradually there’s never any feeling of rush while at the same time giving so much detail as to make one fully captivated by the story. I had a feeling of dread reading about Deanna – soon, there’ll be trouble in paradise, I thought, while Lusa’s story brought hope and Garnett and Nannie inserted just the right amount of humor to give the book a perfect balance.

Come by next week for the last post in this read-along…but until then, head over to Vishy’s blog to find out his thoughts on this part of the book.

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9 Responses to A read-along of Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver (II)

  1. Vishy says:

    It was interesting to read about the story of the bird and its young ones in your yard. I hope the chicks were able to fly and got away. It will be heartbreaking if some mishap had happened to them. I didn’t know that birds can’t see in the dark, till I read that in the book. I liked your description of Deanna and Eddie living like Adam and Eve. I liked the description of the copperhead snake in the book. I think for some reason humans are conditioned to dislike reptiles. What Kingsolver said about snakes was eye-opening. I felt that the pace of the story picked up in this part of the book. There was more dialogue and more things were happening in the main characters’ lives. I am also scared about what is going to happen between Deanna and Eddie. I also can’t wait to find out what is going to happen in Lusa’s life – I really warmed up to her in the second part of the book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the third part next week.

    • Delia says:

      Vishy, I hope so too, I have no idea how the birds could have flown away so young. Fingers crossed and hope for the best. 🙂

      We dislike reptiles because we fear them. I remember watching a baby cobra from less than two meters and thinking it was so beautiful (as long as it kept its distance) and was always sad when I would find a dead snake in the yard – my dogs don’t let anything slip by, except frogs.

      Yes, there was more dialogue, and it was nicely balanced with the descriptive part – I never thought I would like reading so many descriptive passages (they generally bore me) but I loved it!

      Looking forward to seeing your review for the last part of the book – all I can say is that….well, never mind, I’m not saying anything. 🙂

      • Vishy says:

        I can’t believe that you watched a baby cobra from two metres! I have seen cobras only on TV. Maybe I might have seen one in the snake park.

        I liked what you said about the dialogues being perfectly balanced with the descriptive part of the book. I totally agree with you. I love reading descriptive passages, but dialogues move the story faster. I loved the conversations between Lusa and Rickie and Lusa and Crys.

        I am intrigued about how the story will go now, after reading your comment 🙂 Can’t wait to continue from where I left off, tomorrow.

        • Delia says:

          Snakes in the yard, lizards in the house, I live in a regular zoo. 🙂 Sometimes I see squirrels on the electricity lines between houses but none of them wait for me to go and get my camera. How rude!

          It seems you like Lusa more in this part of the story. I’m curious to see if it will stay the same until the end of the book.

          • Vishy says:

            Ha, ha, ha! Nice to know that your dogs are around to help you. I remember you mentioning the squirrels near your home sometime. Hope you can take a picture of them and post it sometime.

            Yes, I have really started liking Lusa in the second part of the book. I hope her story ends well. Sometimes the reader’s heart is in the writer’s hands and the writer can take the story in unpredictable directions and then decide to break the reader’s heart. I hope that doesn’t happen here.

  2. Delia says:

    If I catch one of those squirrels, I promise I’ll post a photo but it might take a while. Months, years! They are way too quick!

    Well, there will be no broken hearts, that much I can say.

    • Vishy says:

      Looking forward to seeing the squirrels’ pictures 🙂

      I was worried about the ending when I reached the last few chapters. In the end, I was glad that there were no broken hearts. The ending was open with the author suggesting how things might have gone. It was nice and it was perfect. I liked the last chapter on the coyote very much. I wish we got to know about what happened to Eddie. It was sad that he suddenly disappeared.

      • Delia says:

        That last chapter was strange. At first I thought it was about Deanna coming down from the forest, but then there was a detail that made me realize it was actually a coyote and not her.This might be yet another fact used by the writer to balance things: the book started with a woman and ended with a coyote. Perfect.

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