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A Novel
Barbara Kingsolver
read on February 15, 2019

Kingsolver tried to tackle a lot with this book: fate, luck, poverty, journalism, truth, propoganda, capitalism, racism, populism, politics, sexism, to name a few. I think she does a great job, and for the most part its a good book. It follows two narratives that never directly interact (they take place 100 years apart), but which rhyme thematically.

For me the biggest impact were the events and conversations around climate change. Too often, and quite unfortunately, climate change is politicized and made to seem like a partisan issue. R's challenge that it exists, or that it is a problem, and D's insist that it exists, and that we must act to stop it. This is an easy story, and makes the issue appear two dimensional. In a few different parts of this book, Kingsolver really challenges that, and illustrates climate change as a problem that is orthogonal to the R and D tug-of-war. At one point Willa is speaking to Tig (her daughter), and describing herself in this light, as a progressive and very much opposed to her Trumpian father-in-law. But Tig very deftly exposes Willa as still being part of the problem. Willa is highly progressive, but still thinks climate change is something that other people need to solve. She seems to think that because she acknowledges that it's a problem, that she has done her part. But she still wants her own house, on her own land. Though she would never admit it, she wants the solution to climate change to be something that doesn't impact her, or even inconvenience her. Most succinctly, Tig summarizes Willa's position as "wanting your kids to have more than you did". This is, of course, what every parent has always wanted for every child since time immemorial. But put in this context, so flatly, it becomes plainly obvious how literally unscalable such desires are. 

Yes, Trumpian policies are an enormous step backwards. But hating Trump isn't enough, and it is in fact an irrelevant distraction. No one wants to be told that their good intentions are ruining the world, but Kingsolver does it. 

I don't know if that's what anyone else would get out of this book - there are a lot of different themes throughout. But this, along with the wonderful descriptions of Cuba, are what made the most impact for me.

Author Bio:

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of nine bestselling works of fiction, including the novels, Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work of narrative nonfiction is the enormously influential bestseller Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned literary awards and a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts, as well as the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her body of work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.