Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Monday, November 12, 2012


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
by Barbara Kingsolver
★★★☆

Oh Barbara Kingsolver, you are so amazing and brilliant… wait, I mean condescending. Sorry for the snarky comment, but after awhile her attitude was a bit much for me. Yes, the lifestyle she advocates is a wonderful idea, but having someone tell you over and over again that you really have to grow your own food because fast food is bad for you gets old fast. I just wanted to yell “WE KNOW!”

It’s not a bad book, it’s just, most of what she says feels like common knowledge and she just comes across as so self-congratulatory. I also don’t think it’s feasible for many people to pack up and move from Arizona to the Appalachian mountains in order to grow a garden, which is what she and her family do.

Most people in America (at least most of the people who are reading books like her’s) already understand that buying local is better for the environment, economy and our personal health. We know that working in a garden can be hard, but it’s also rewarding. We know that it’s not impossible to eat all local foods, but it can be difficult.

My parents are living a very similar life. They raise their own chickens for eggs and meat. They grow all their own veggies, do their own canning and make their own jams. So maybe I’ve just heard all of this before. I really loved learning more about the process, I just would have enjoyed it more without the patronizing style of the book.

There are certainly things I liked about the book. I think Kingsolver is right when she says that having a family dinner together is important. I also love how she teaches her kids the importance of these things.

I love that she reminds us good things are worth waiting for. I think it’s also interesting that she emphasizes the value of cooking from scratch and notes that it has become a negative thing because it makes women seem “domestic” which is “bad” in America.

I definitely learned some new things from the book and I appreciate that, I just wish it had been written in a slightly different way.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re interested in growing and raising your own food and curious about the ins and outs of the process then this is a must. If you already have a good base of knowledge and understand that a farmer’s market is a good place to shop, skip it.

Check out Nymeth and Kailana's great discussions here and here

*Photo of Kingsolver and her family

13 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I DO think this is all common knowledge (although probably more common to you and I since we grew up on farms). I find books like this a tad preachy. I live in the city, and really don't have the ability to pick up and move somewhere that allows chickens and working the land. Sure I have fantasies about this (especially the chicken and farm animal part) but it isn't going to happen. I loved The Poisonwood Bible, but I think I'll just stick with her fiction.

annieb said...

I may be the only person alive that didn't like The Poisonwood Bible, but I have liked all of her nonfiction. Her essays on various things are dynamite. I liked this book a lot and didn't find it preachy, but useful. I'm sure nobody read it that wasn't interested in the subject matter first and there are many, many ways to approach it--this was just one. Probably very few will be able to replicate Kingsolver's success, but just a few changes can do a lot of good for everyone to get us off the processed food path. Baby steps, you know?

Cori said...

I quite liked this one, but I think part of it was that I listened to it instead of reading it, which gave it a certain charm. I think it was a little more "revolutionary" in 2007 when the recent iteration of the back-to-the-earth movement gained steam.

Jeanne said...

I thought the part about raising and slaughtering her own turkeys was the most interesting and least preachy part.

Brooke said...

I appreciate Kingsolver's talent and have recently quite enjoyed Flight Behavior. Unfortunately, she just always comes off as condescending and preachy to me. She's also a fan of telling, telling, telling - perhaps even shouting - over showing.

Bybee said...

She can be preachy, but overall, I prefer her nonfiction to her fiction. The trip to Italy was an odd, jarring change in the book, but I loved her descriptions of the food they ate. Yum. Like Jeanne, I also enjoyed the turkey farming part.

Please send me your address so I can send your readathon prize. susanbybeeATyahooDOTcom. Don't make me get all preachy and condescending on you, Avid! ;)

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

(LOL, your first sentence!)

I've loved everything I've read by her, but have given this a pass because I've heard the same thing from other reviewers.

Does she give alternatives to people who live in apartments and don't have a back-yard?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - Yeah, I don't even have a good spot for a garden at my house and moving isn't an option. I know there are other things I can do, but she made it sound like everyone should just pick up and move to Virginia!

annieb - I completely agree about making little changes. We get a 1/4 of a cow each year and raise chickens with my parents. That means we buy almost no meat from the store and it makes a big difference in how it tastes!

Cori - Oh man, I listened to it too, so I think it just wasn't a good fit. I am glad you mentioned the release date. I'd kind of forgotten that when it came out the whole slow food movement was pretty new then. That really makes a big difference in how I should look at it.

Jeanne - I agree and I've actually done that with my parents, with chickens instead of turkeys. It's really a fascinating process!

Brooke - I think you're really right. I have a feeling I need to just accept that style if I read more of her work.

Bybee - I did really love the food descriptions.

Alex - Instead of alternatives, she basically just says, I know everyone can't move to a farm, but you can go to a farmer's market! Which is great, but I think everyone already knows that.

Jenners said...

I've heard this about her over and over again. It is a shame because it seems to get in the way of her very good message.

Kailana said...

I love your bottom line. :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - Agreed, I honestly think most of what she was saying was wonderful information. It's just something about the way she says it.

Kailana - Thanks, I've found including a bottom line helps me focus my rambling thoughts.

Trish said...

LOLOL!!! I laughed at your "We get it!" sentiments. I have this on my shelf and started it once but didn't get very far. I'm still interested in reading it but will now go into it realizing it won't be anything earth shattering.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - I'm curious if the book felt earth shattering when it first came out.