I recently saw this article: Decline of Predators Throws Off Food Chain, and it made me think of the Barbara Kingsolver novel Prodigal Summer, where she explores the same concept through a story told by 3 very different people during a particular summer in southern Appalachia.
As Kingsolver is certainly one of my favorite authors and this is an important and interesting issue to be aware of, I thought I would share a mini book review for anyone who might be looking for a little summer reading or new author to enjoy…
Prodigal Summer is a story of one summer as told through the eyes of 3 people:
‘Old Chestnuts’ or Garnett Walker III is a crusty, nosy old gentleman who has very certain ideas about appropriateness and the way life should be – of course with quite a high idea of himself as one of the few who posses this particular wisdom. He is also a man on a mission – he’s spent his retirement in attempts to revive the American Chestnut tree, a species almost totally eradicated from blight, by crossing strands from the inferior Chinese Chestnut to create a tree possessing all the qualities of the American while maintaining the Chinese Chestnut’s ability to withstand blight. His main problems include the fear that he will die before his work can be completed, and irritability with his hippieish, organically growing neighbor, old Nannie Rawley, who always manages to somehow foil his pesticide spraying ways.
‘Moth Love’ or Lusa Walker is an entomologist (or bug scientist) who finds herself as something of a fish out of water when she marries into a small town farm. She has a hard time relating with just about everyone in her new husband’s family, and wonders if she’ll ever make it in her new environment. All the same, her love and fascination of nature which she is now closer to than ever may be the thing that sustains her through the unexpected and difficult challenges she will encounter on the Walker farm.
‘Predator’ or Deanna Wolfe has managed to wrangle herself a position from the forest service well away from everyone – up at the top of a mountain, in fact, where she has lived for 2 years now studying the advent of the coyote making his appearance in southern Appalachia. Deanna has made it her business to understand how the demise of predators at the top of the food chain has managed to throw the entire thing out of whack; her hopes are that the coyote might just make it here and help restore balance to the fragile system. At the same time, out in the middle of nowhere she runs into the unconventional love interest of a Western rancher/hunter who hates coyotes and makes it his business to hunt them down.
All told, the story is a fascinating one, with unexpected twists, interesting insight into different perspectives and beautiful nature imagery throughout.
And one thing you’ll always get from Kingsolver – an education. Whether it’s social justice or environmental concerns, Kingsolver is particularly talented at getting to the heart of the issue – through the art of telling a story.
In Prodigal Summer, you’ll gain new understanding of the importance of the predator chain, the beauty and significance of insects, the demise of the family farm – even a look into the genetics of trees and the importance of growing organically and sustainably.
I wouldn’t call her a bleeding heart either – she’s honest about the struggles of caring for the environment while trying to make a living from it.
That’s all for this review. I encourage you to pick up the book (or any other by Kingsolver – you won’t be disappointed!).
Were you aware that the predator chain has such a great significance on the rest of the world’s food chain? Have you read Prodigal Summer? What were your thoughts?