I have a terrible habit that got me started on cannonball read. We can blame my father; he’s the sort of man to order the extra mega jumbo size when only a small is needed because “it was only a quarter more!”
I don’t need a swimming pool sized Coca Cola, but I definitely ascribe to the philosophy that one can never have too many books, and I’m in a very nice city for thrifting. So, having just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I couldn’t resist buying this for a dollar when I found it at a local goodwill. As my father would ask himself of cheap records he’d buy in college (dads really were the first hipsters), how bad could it be for a dollar?
It would be more enjoyable to savage the book at this point, but the answer turns out to be “not that bad.” A buck is about right. The story follows a grumpy old man farmer, a forest services employee, a European widow, and Barbara Kingsolver … I’m sorry, Nannie Rawley … as they live off the land in Appalachian farm country, and their stories interconnect.
The interconnected nature of the stories is actually fairly well done, no shades of Crash here; it’s believable that in a rural area like the one described everyone would have ties to everyone else, however tenuous. The problem isn’t that it’s improbable everyone would be interconnected, it’s that there’s no need for them to be as they are all very obviously Barbara Kingsolver herself.
This is true to varying degrees on a scale from Nannie Rawley, an aging free spirit still grounded in nature who seems to be Kingsolver’s vision of herself in old age, to Garnett, our aging farmer who resists Nannie’s non traditional methods (but whose pet project is attempting to repopulate the American Chestnut via selective breeding against blight resistance – a subject to which a large section of another Kingsolver’s books was devoted. Zero points if you’ve figured out that he comes around to Nannie’s point of view by book’s end).
This flaw may have been made more stark by my having just finished her non-fiction Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and reading her characters’ viewpoints from Kingsolver herself directly, but I maintain it would likely be obvious to a reader new to Kingsolver as well. That said, if the worst that can be said of a book is that it argued too strongly for good ideas and in too clear an author’s voice, it’s definitely earned three stars, and it’s dollar price tag.