Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 662
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, and Loyd Peregrina, a railroad engineer who courts Codi and helps her to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of the Native American worldview.
In addition to providing an entertaining story of personal relations, Kingsolver’s novel also deepens the reader’s concern for social issues through the struggles faced by her characters. Hallie’s letters and Codi’s frequent thoughts of her develop a sympathetic image of the Sandinista revolution and a disturbing indictment of U.S. support for the Contras. Similarly, Kingsolver stirs the reader through the spirited campaign that the women of Grace organize to save the town’s river and orchards from industrial poisoning by the Black Mountain Mining Company. In sum, ANIMAL DREAMS is a richly engrossing novel in which people overcome personal and community nightmares through the shared work and joy of everyday life.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. LXXXVI, August, 1990, p.2155. A review of Animal Dreams.
Chicago Tribune. August 26, 1990, XIV, p.1 A review of Animal Dreams.
Cosmopolitan. CCIX, September, 1990, p.62. A review of Animal Dreams.
Kasinec, Denise E. “Barbara Kingsolver.” In Contemporary Authors, edited by Susan M. Trosky. Vol. 134. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. This valuable article includes a brief biography of Kingsolver, a discussion of her writing career, a listing of her publications, and a list of reviews of her work.
Kingsolver, Barbara. “CA Interview.” Interview by Jean W. Ross. In Contemporary Authors, edited by Susan M. Trosky. Vol. 134. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. In this interview, Kingsolver reflects on the writing of two of her previous books, The Bean Trees and Homeland and Other Stories (1989). The interview will give readers useful insight into Kingsolver’s ideas about writing and social change.
Library Journal. CXV, August, 1990, p.143. A review of Animal Dreams.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 9, 1990, p.1. A review of Animal Dreams.
Lyall, Sarah. “Human Relations Prove a Better Subject than the Social Life of Insects.” The New York Times, September 1, 1993, p. C1. In this profile of the author, Lyall describes how Kingsolver left a graduate program in entomology to become a writer. The article also surveys Kingsolver’s career. Provides an interesting glimpse of the writer’s life.
The Nation. CCLI, November 26, 1990, p.653. A review of Animal Dreams.
The New York Times Book Review. XCV, September 2, 1990, p.2. A review of Animal Dreams.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVII, June 22, 1990, p.45. A review of Animal Dreams.
Time. CXXXVI, September 24, 1990, p.87. A review of Animal Dreams.
The Washington Post Book World. XX, September 2, 1990, p. 1. A review of Animal Dreams.