"Animals dream about the things they do in the day time just like people do. If you want sweet dreams, you've got to live a sweet life." So says Loyd Peregrina, a handsome Apache trainman and latter-day philosopher. But when Codi Noline returns to her hometown, Loyd's advice is painfully out of her reach. Dreamless and at the end of her rope, Codi comes back to Grace, Arizona to confront her past and face her ailing, distant father. What the finds is a town threatened by a silent environmental catastrophe, some startling clues to her own identity, and a man whose view of the world could change the course of her life. Blending flashbacks, dreams, and Native American legends, Animal Dreams is a suspenseful love story and a moving exploration of life's largest commitments. With this work, the acclaimed author of The Bean Trees and Homeland and Other Stories sustains her familiar voice while giving readers her most remarkable book yet.
When her sister Hallie, who we only know through letters and memories, leaves for Nicaragua during the time of the Contras crisis, Codi decides to go back to her home town. Her main reason for going home is to see her father who is suffering from Alzheimer's. She accepts a job as the biology teacher at the high school and falls into a romance with Loyd, a man who she has a past with.
The story follows a year in Codi's life. She faithfully writes to her sister and occasionally visits her father. She becomes involved with a campaign to help save the town from an environmental pollutant. The biggest challenge she faces is finding her past. She begins to remember her life in the town of Grace and faces her future.
The book takes place in the mid 80's but is timely in its environmental tone. It all still fits! I was a little lost about the political issues in Nicaragua and Honduras because I was in middle and high school at the time. I was fairly unaware of big news at the time. I do recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Barbara Kingsolver. She's consistently good.
Many stories try to do this. Most fail to do it thoroughly.
But Animal Dreams does it. It is pierced through with sorrow and love and loss and growth, all wrapped up in one special town that most see as a place to move from. Many have left Grace; few return.
And yet Codi comes back, the prodigal daughter, suitcase heavy with fear, alienation, loneliness, and aimlessness. She is un-rooted, and tugged by memories she can and cannot remember. This is a story of finding oneself, of coming together inside your own skin. Of becoming.
Codi holds most of the pages, but some of the most devastating passages are from the few chapters told from her father's point of view. He is how she could be. How we all can be, if we feel but don't let it out, if we hide behind histories long past but still capable of wounding.
My favorite paragraph: "...people's dreams are made out of what they do all day. The same way a dog that runs after rabbits will dream of rabbits. It's what you do that makes your soul, not the other way around."
I'll be reading more Kingsolver.
I was quickly caught up in this story, and especially touched by the relationship between Codi and her father, described most eloquently with small intervals written in his point of view. Kingsolver succeeded in making Grace a real place that I could see in my own mind's eye, and understand as though I'd been there myself. There are several key relationship stories told in this novel - each has a role in bringing the main character to her new enlightenment.
There is real tragedy in this story, and the sadness it made me feel overwhelmed the positive. I'm not sure that was the intention of the author, but it serves to me as a reminder that we all need to take responsibility for our relationships with our loved ones and with our surroundings. Well done.
Her experience throughout the book is one of understanding her disconnection and reestablishing her connection. She reestablishes her connections when she takes an active interest in the town, gets to know people, and generally becomes involved. Finding the stones at the cemetary, the pictures of her and her sister, and putting the pieces together that her family is actually part of the town are equally important. Finally, establishing a meaningful, close relationship with Lloyd, multiple members of the town, and her father allows her to share the experience of her miscarriage with others. In the end she doesn't get on the plane to Colerado because she has finally found a home.
Is it a preoccupation with women's themes, a focus on relationships, a personal (in this case melancholy)writing tone?
Since "Animal Dreams" contains each of these elements, and seems unlikely to be read by very many straight men, it must be chic lit.
Yet while the chick lit label has a"fluffy" connotation, possibly due to its association with cheap romance novels, this is unfortunate because "Animal Dreams" is undoubtedly a well written and poignant book..
Kingslover has an elegant writing style, despite employing too many similes. Her characters are all multi-dimensional (though the protagonist's emotional issues may come across as whiny). Finally, the ecological theme sometimes felt forced, as if the author needed a more substantial topic to throw into the chick-lit mix. But despite some reservations, the story did tie nicely together in the end.
Codi has been running from the town of Grace since the day she left for college but now her father, Doc Homer needs her. Codi takes a job as a science teacher to be close to her father who is fighting dementia. The reader is swept into this novel of soul touching emotions by the characters and the landscape of Arizona.
I have the opportunity to travel to Arizona and even attended a wedding on a Native America reserve but never truly knew the history and traditions of the native americans of this state. Discovering the traditions of another culture be it in the United States or a foreign country makes a fascinating read for this LibraryThing member.
I find it extremely difficult to comprehend why readers found this book boring because it was complex, witty and full of love of the land and the human spirit.
Overall, this is somewhat easier reading than some of Kingsolver's other books and a bit less polemic than Prodigal Summer.
So sad, yet I wanted to know these people, these characters; I wanted to see the small town of Grace. Kingsolver's passion for the earth and for peace really shine through in this novel. I kept waiting for Codi to wake up and realize that she actually had it pretty great - a fabulous friend in Emelina, a new family in Loyd and his family, a meaningful job, a community she could care about and love. Not that these things could ever replace those she lost, but they make the loss far more bearable. Barbara Kingsolver really does amazing things with words.