Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Animal Dreams

By Barbara Kingsolver

Codi's mother died shortly after giving birth to Codi's little sister, Hallie. Their father, Homer, had to raise his two little girls on his own. One thing that Codi never really understood about her father was how very much he loved his children. He wasn't a man for showing or telling his feelings. As a consequence, Codi grew up feeling alone and unloved; her closest relationship was with her little sister.
Homer was a physician in a small Arizona town. Previously the economy of the town was based on the local gold mine but after that petered out the towns people planted orchards and the economy was then centered on agriculture.
Codi and Hallie both moved away when they grew up. Hallie became an agronomist and Codi studied medicine but quit during the last few months of her residency. After that she just drifted from job to job. Hallie went to Nicaragua to help the peasants improve their farming practices. She was killed during the unrest there.
Codi finally ended up back home to keep an eye on her father, who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She took a job teaching biology at the high school and it was during a class field trip that she and her students discovered that the river that was used to irrigate the orchards was seriously polluted with chemical run off from the old mine tailings, thus threatening the little towns very survival.
But the town's environmental problems are only part of the story. Mainly it is about Codi's struggle to understand herself and why she let life overwhelm her. Her time back home is her opportunity to clear up several misunderstanding she had about her childhood and realize that maybe things weren't as dire as she remembered.

This was a pretty good story. Codi is one of those people who likes to make mountains out of molehills and all the drama of her childhood was not nearly as terrible as she remembered. Her dad's weird ways were all based in love and in logic and he did the best he knew how as a man trying to raise two daughters on his own. He was standoffish and withdrawn, but not from meanness. As Codi reconnects with her neighbors and relatives she begins to get a better picture of what her childhood was really like and discovers that you really can go home again.

No comments: