CBR Bingo – In the Wild
When I heard that Barbara Kingsolver had written a Pulitzer Prize winner I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I was a huge fan of her 1999 Pulitzer finalist “The Poisonwood Bible” and have enjoyed a number of her other books so I knew I was going to like this book and I was right. This book is in my top five for the year. Kingsolver is a brilliant writer, creating characters that are both common and provocative and so real that you’ll question how they can be fictional. She will make you smile, think, and feel and at the end of her books, you will really feel like you have walked in the shoes of someone else.
This book is a modern retelling of David Copperfield, so at its core, it’s an examination of poverty and class but Kingsolver’s version is set in modern times in Appalachia with Demon as our main character. Not only do we get his point of view, but this book is a deep dive into the stereotypes and marginalization of the Appalachian people. (Confession time: it was only by saying the name of the book out loud for my Instagram Story review that I got what she was doing with the book/character name. David/Demon. Copperfield/Copperhead. For an infinitesimal moment, I thought “Maybe that was just a coincidence” but then I laughed myself out of the room with that one. C’mon Daigle, let’s give Kingsolver credit where credit is due).
It takes a chapter or two to “get” the voice of Demon, as he speaks very informally but his wit and humor are evident, despite his unforgiving upbringing. He has literally but also metaphorically been in the wild his whole life, from his birth on the floor of his mother’s trailer through his heartbreaking childhood. Kingsolver never lets us forget that Demon is good at his core, always trying to make a good choice and lead with kindness, no matter what life throws at him. But it isn’t all dire. Kingsolver balances the lowest of lows in his life with some high highs, and I’m not just talking about the oxycontin. (Womp Womp). There is light in the darkness and though his childhood is tumultuous, there are supportive characters in his life, friendships formed, and adoptive family bonds forged.
As a side note, reading this and then also rewatching Justified is a real deep dive into Appalachia and the ills of oxycontin.
In conclusion, I LOVED this book and the accolades are deserved because what she accomplishes is rare: written a great book from start to finish that examines the complexity of human experience, invokes empathy and thoughtfulness in the reader, and also has a very satisfying ending.