Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The ascension of Pigs in Heaven to national best-seller lists for a number of weeks testifies to growing interest both in Barbara Kingsolver as a writer and to the literary movement of ecofeminism that she represents.The distinctive focus of Kingsolver’s books is on people who are marginalized by American society and on their struggles for economic, cultural, and emotional survival. Further, drawing on her academic training in environmental science, Kingsolver often focuses on her people’s connections to the land and on the disastrous consequences that heedless abuse of the land can bring. Kingsolver’s novels have been grouped with other works that draw connections between the exploitation of women and of the environment and that promote the healing that can occur when women are empowered and the Earth receives reverence and care. In addition to Animal Dreams and Pigs in Heaven, other notable ecofeminist novels include Always Coming Home (1985) by Ursula Le Guin, Tracks (1989) by Louise Erdrich, and Mean Spirit (1991) by Linda Hogan.

Even in the company of such distinguished writers, however, Barbara Kingsolver stands out by reason of the remarkable entertainment value of her fiction. Born and reared in Kentucky, she is a born raconteur, heir to the rich oral literary tradition of the South. Even as she is sharpening the reader’s awareness of weighty social issues and profound literary themes, her narrative voice never ceases to entertain as a humorous and engrossing storyteller, a gifted creator of heartfelt characters, and a witty and poetic stylist.