Animal Dreams

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In ANIMAL DREAMS, her fourth book in three years, Barbara Kingsolver adds further luster to her rising reputation as a sharp-eyed regional writer with a penchant for social issues and universal themes that resound far beyond her American Southwest locale.

ANIMAL DREAMS is chiefly a novel about coming home. Returning to her small hometown of Grace, Arizona, after a ten-year absence, thirty-two-year-old Cosima (Codi) Noline must come to terms with her tangled personal and family past. Codi has finished medical school, but she has abandoned her career after panicking during a difficult childbirth procedure. She desperately misses Hallie, her beloved younger sister, who has just left their Tucson apartment to dedicate her agricultural expertise to the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. Thus Codi reluctantly returns to Grace to work for a year as a high school biology teacher and to care for her father, Doc Homer. A stern and stubbornly independent man, he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and Kingsolver includes several chapters that dramatize his confused perspective on his life and family.

Kingsolver presents most of the action, however, through Codi’s first-person point of view; and despite Codi’s sense of failure and alienation, she is an immensely appealing narrator. Codi’s supple voice, both conversational and highly alert, provides many witty observations on herself, the numerous supporting characters, and the rich cultural mix of the Southwest. Chief among those characters who help Codi find herself are Emelina Domingos, her high school friend and the mother of a large family,...

(The entire section is 662 words.)