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

Some days ago, I got back my copy of The Poisonwood Bible and opened it at the beginning to see if the book started like I remembered, with a woman walking in the jungle. It did. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the books we love the most leave such an imprint on our memory. I wish I could remember them all but I know that is not possible.


Part 3, Chapters 19 – 31

Chapter 19 of Prodigal Summer brought me back to Deanna’s story. Something was happening to her, a sort of lethargy that made her forget things, a heightened awareness of the life moving around her in the forest, a tiredness that made her sleepy in the daytime and sleepless at night. Living with Eddie had changed her but it was a chapter in her life that would end soon. In the end, after Eddie was gone and the changes in her body could not be ignored anymore, it was time to make a decision. There was a new life to consider.

Back on her farm, Lusa had started to realize that after she had lost a husband she had gained a family, his family – Cole’s brothers and sisters and nephews who at first were cautious in their interactions with her but as time went by found themselves appreciating her. Getting close to Crys, her young niece, was not easy, but as Lusa started to teach her about bugs and trees and plants, she started to feel connected to this wild child who ran around dressed like a boy and spoke with a weird accent she sometimes struggled to understand. Lusa, just like Deanna, loves nature. Cutting and selling the trees on her property could bring her lots of money but, like she explained to Crys, it would only put in motion a chain reaction that would affect the life of all the creatures living in that area. You cut a tree, many more years will need to pass before a new one can grow to maturity in its place, you kill the bugs in an area, you take away some bird’s food. There are consequences to every action, some of them more far reaching and devastating than others.

The dynamic of Garnett and Nannie’s interactions had started to change, as well. To his surprise, Garnett even found himself feeling protective of the woman he used to dread talking to. As both of them learned to let down their guard and share experiences and memories, they found that it just might be possible to become friends, and maybe even more. There are things to look forward to now – for Nannie, the arrival of Deanna, a woman she raised together with her own daughter, and the promise of life she brings with her. For Garnett, it is the re-opening of a chapter he thought closed long ago: his nephew and niece will come to visit – grandchildren he never had anything to do with until now that Lusa has discovered that her sister-in-law’s children have a grandfather they’ve never met. And so life springs again, with hope where it once was only memory.

The book ends in a perfect circle, bringing into focus again one of the paragraphs from the beginning. It’s a beautiful ending, and even though none of the stories are fully closed, there is hope for better things to come. It left me wanting to know more about the lives of the people in the story. I wish I knew what happened to Deanna and how she adapted to the life away from the solitude of the forest. I wish I knew who Eddie was and if they ever met again. I wish I knew if Lusa found love again and if she was happy. And I wish I could have seen how the friendship between Nannie and Garnett continued to grow and if, perhaps, it grew into something more.

There are many beautiful passages in this last part and this is the one I liked the most:

“Solitude is a human presumption. 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 enjoyed this book a lot. I’ve learned things about bugs and plants and I was reminded of what would happen if they disappeared and that prey and predator play an important role in keeping the balance of life, especially in a forest. Kingsolver describes with an infinite tenderness and sadness the small and great tragedies that make up life and the feeling of guilt and sorrow when we find out that we can’t interfere with nature but must leave it to follow its course. Human emotions find their echo in nature: a storm matches an inner turmoil, a lazy sunny day mirrors contentment and the end of summer marks the end of a solitary period of time. I also liked the beautiful poem Prothalamium, at the beginning of the book.
I look forward to reading more books by Barbara Kingsolver. I have Pigs in Heaven on my TBR list and hopefully I will read it soon. This is one writer I will add to the list of my favorite authors.


This is the last part of the three week read-along I did with Vishy. Many thanks to him for agreeing to share this wonderful experience with me. You can read his review here.

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6 Responses to A read-along of Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver (III)

  1. Pingback: Readalong Part 3 – Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver « Vishy’s Blog

  2. Vishy says:

    I loved your picture of the book with the forest background 🙂 I didn’t guess that Deanna was going to have a baby till the end. It looks like Kingsolver has been giving clues on it at different times but I didn’t catch them. I liked what you said about Garnett’s and Nannie’s interactions – that they could be more than friends. I wish we could find out what happened to them. I liked what you said about the book ending in a perfect circle with the last passage very similar to the first one but slightly transformed by its experience of journeying through the story. I was happy with the ending, in general, but I wish I had got to know more about Eddie. I definitely would love to know whether he and Deanna met again and what happened then. I loved this sentence from your review – “Human emotions find their echo in nature: a storm matches an inner turmoil, a lazy sunny day mirrors contentment and the end of summer marks the end of a solitary period of time.” – so beautiful!

    Thanks a lot for suggesting this readalong, Delia! It was wonderful to read ‘Prodigal Summer’ with you and get to know your thoughts on it and compare notes with you.

    • Delia says:

      What I like is that every character seems to be content if not actually happy.
      I agree with you that more info about Eddie would have been nicer but then a bit of mystery is also good. 🙂 Somehow he seems more like a ghost than a real-life character. Perhaps he was Deanna’s wish come true, someone she could love and be loved by in return and give her life a new purpose, a new beginning.

      I read on the author’s website a few questions and answers that echoed my feelings about the book and made me understand it better. You should check it out. There are also answered questions about “The Poisonwood Bible” and you can read them without fear of spoilers. I cannot recommend that book highly enough. It is one of the best I have read.

      As for Nannie and Garnett, they were the funniest couple and their conversations were entertaining.

      I liked doing this read-along as well, you have a more practical approach to your review while I tend to lean more towards the emotional side – I think together we can give our readers a balanced overview of the book.

      • Vishy says:

        I liked what you said about a little bit of mystery being good 🙂 I will check out the section of the author’s website on ‘Prodigal Summer’. Thanks for telling me about that. I can’t wait to start ‘The Poisonwood Bible’. Waiting for the right moment 🙂

  3. Kathleen says:

    I loved Poisonwood Bible so would also like to read this one. It sounds wonderful.

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