In Animal Dreams, Codi Noline has parted from her beloved sister, Hallie, who has decided to journey to Nicaragua to lend her assistance to local farmers. An act that Codi comes to believe is heroic, in contrast to her own life and her own journey back to the place of her birth – Grace, Arizona. Struggling with memories she can no longer recall, feeling utterly adrift wherever she may be, Codi sees nothing heroic in herself, nothing worthwhile. And bereft of a sense of belonging, she arrives back home already preparing to leave yet again. Unless she can somehow find meaning, not only in where she resides and the people around her, but in herself. This is now the second novel that I have read from Barbara Kingsolver, and I am enchanted. Kingsolver is a wonderful writer. I am stunned at how well she can imbue seemingly simple characters and places and events with such unnerving, yet compelling complexity. Her prose is smooth, her language so real, yet so inspiring. A beautiful work indeed.
I admit, I am no great fan of modern American literature. Apart from Ernest Hemingway, Philip Roth, and Raymond Carver, I hardly touch the stuff. I prefer a foreign setting, not to mention a different genre. And with that bias, I approached Barbara Kingsolver at long last, and found The Bean Trees to be remarkably compelling. The story of Taylor Greer, on a journey across the country, heading nowhere in particular, simply seeking to escape her dreary life. Only to be handed a life she could not have expected when a baby is thrust into her car and left in her care. Kingsolver has created characters who seem quite far from me, lives and experiences distinct from my own. Yet somehow she manages to make me care about these people. She can weave a tale around a superficially simplistic setting, a deceptively banal event – and inject it with such meaning, such feeling. Cheers to you, Ms. Kingsolver. I look forward to reading more of your works.