Study Guide

Homeland, and Other Stories

by Barbara Kingsolver

Homeland, and Other Stories Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Homeland, and Other Stories, Kingsolver’s second book, begins with the touching and poetic title story about a woman attempting to pass along her Cherokee beliefs and values to her great-granddaughter while resigned to a vastly changing world. The last story, “Why I’m a Danger to the Public,” tells of a young woman fighting for workers’ rights in a mine strike, with resignation the furthest thing from her mind. “Rose-Johnny” is narrated by a young girl who defends an eccentric outcast in a prejudiced small town. In “Covered Bridges,” a husband comes face-to-face with his wife’s mortality while they are in the process of deciding whether to have children. In “Survival Zones,” a middle-aged and very typical farm wife, Roberta, comes to terms with her predictable life. The joke that she attempts to tell at the beginning but can never get right finally makes sense by the middle of the story. By the end of the story, she sees that her life, though conventional, is comfortable and fulfilling.

The stories cover a range of locales. In “Jump-up Day,” an independent-minded girl is forced to live in a convent in the Caribbean region; in “Blueprints,” a couple moves to the country after ten years of life together in Sacramento, only to find their relationship seriously threatened in the new setting.

Characters in the remaining stories include an estranged, free-spirited mother and daughter who are both pregnant, a woman who visits home for Easter and is unexpectedly haunted by the past, and an ex-convict who tries to live a straight life while those around her gossip, meddle, and steal.

Kingsolver’s characters tolerate poverty, despair, disappointment, and injustice, as they make valiant efforts to understand what has happened to them and live lives according to their insights. Kingsolver’s stories convey hope. In “Islands on the Moon,” Magda never quits trying to connect to her daughter. She tries to explain their estrangement:

“We’re like islands on the moon.”“There’s no water on the moon,” says Annemarie.“That’s what I mean. A person could walk from  one to the other if they just decided to do it.”

Her characters pay attention to the people around them, and most exhibit kindness and empathy. In some stories, the main characters learn that they must care for themselves. Every person has honor in a Kingsolver story.