Animal, Vegetable, Miracle- A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver
A BOOK REVIEW
Barbara Kingsolver is an undeniable master of storytelling. For the first time she indulges us with anonfiction story and she doesn’t disappoint. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle includes a year’s worth of trials and tribulations of a family producing, processing, and enjoying their own food on a small farm in West Virginia. Although a nonfiction book, Kingsolver maintains her amazing story-telling talents. And the result is a tale about relationships, adoration, and worship of food very much in the style of MFK Fisher’s iconic writings, continuing to uphold the highest standard of “food” writing.
Kingsolver’s major focus is making a passionate case for the sustainable relationship that is formed between an individual and community when food consumption is centered around two things: producing food yourself and buying from local producers. Kingsolver tells a story of life centered around the seasons; the hard months of spring when cupboards are bare and gardens have yet to produce, the beauty of a fully producing garden in the summer, the intense months of harvest in the fall, and the joy of overstocked larders in the winter. She captures the rhythm of life “close” to the earth while spinning stories about zucchini wars, 50th birthday parties, melting pumpkin carcasses, and turkey copulation.
As a nonfiction book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, provides exhaustively researched references about sustainable agriculture. Intermingled in the chapters, Kingsolver has included excerpts of scientific research, government policy, and community activism that reinforce the farm experience in relation to the world community. And she gives us facts like, “Buying your goods from local businesses rather than national chains generates about three times as much money for your local economy”. In addition to Barbara’s tale, her oldest daughter includes her own memories of “kitchen life” and recipes that her mother may have mentioned in the chapters. It adds another beautiful dimension to the intensity of relationships that are woven within the book.
The biggest obstacle for this high-desert garden reader to overcome is the lusciousness of the Appalachian climate. Kingsolver’s book begins with her family moving from arid Phoenix to a farm tucked in the hills of West Virginia, where irrigation is never again mentioned. And yes, I’m jealous. Living in an environment where it’s impossible to pick up the daily paper and not read about water rights, the luxury of a non-irrigated garden is beyond my wildest dreams. And yet we persevere, with a heavy sigh.
This book is an inspiring read, especially in these off-gardening months. Kingsolver presents a convincing testimonial to the love of food, family, and community in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
By Susan Fries
Executive Director of the Pueblo Performing Arts Guild,
and avid traveler, bookworm, gardener, and cook.
Categories: Book Reviews