(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

At the heart of Kingsolver’s novel is a belief in the possibility of connections between individuals and groups. She begins the novel by establishing the strong bond between the sisters Codi and Hallie, but as the story progresses, Kingsolver reveals other connections. The central plot of the novel emphasizes Codi’s growing awareness of her links with other members of the Grace community and, through Loyd, with the American Indian culture of the Southwest. At the beginning of the novel, Codi believes that her sister is the only person with whom she will ever feel a true affinity. Because of this and her childhood experiences of being an outsider, she approaches first Grace, then the landscape, and later the Apache community with trepidation. To her surprise, she finds herself comfortable, accepted, and even loved in all three places. Codi learns that the kinship and admiration that she first feels only for Hallie is, in many ways, parallel with the bonds that she later finds in other relationships.

Codi’s changing sense of her relationships with the people and places around her also raises questions about whether apparent cultural differences are real. Codi believes that her family came to Grace from Illinois, and while she shares the town’s Hispanic background, she definitely sees herself as separate from the local culture. Most townspeople are descendants of the nine Gracela sisters, a common line of identity even stronger and more narrowly defined than any ethnic label could cover. Her discoveries about her family history and her conversations with Viola Domingos and other older women in town teach Codi, and the reader, that apparent differences may not be as distinct as they seem. Through this aspect of the story, Kingsolver suggests both the value of ethnic identity, which gives the townspeople a sense of common mission and shared history, and the problem of assuming that ethnic differences are absolute.

Along these same lines, Animal Dreams suggests that...

(The entire section is 822 words.)