Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver.

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

For example, she writes, "Pain reaches the heart with electrical speed, but truth moves to the heart as slowly as a glacier" (Kingsolver 286). That is why it takes Codi so long to learn the truth -- that she is really a part of Grace and it is a part of her, which is one of the central themes of this novel. We are a product of our family, but also of the culture and beliefs where we were raised, and it takes Codi over a decade to find that out.

The relationship between the people and the culture is extremely complicated. Legend has it that most of the people in Grace are related to each other. Codi always believed that her family was a group of outsiders, until she learns the truth, both her parents were born and raised in Grace, and always wanted to appear to be outsiders. Once she discovers this, she feels more like she fits in, and that is the beginning of her "salvation." However, it goes deeper than that. The townspeople welcome her back as if she was never gone. In a word, they accept her, and do not seem to judge her, which is a direct referral to the culture of the place and the people. At the fiesta, Codi says, "It was like a high-school reunion. Everyone was boisterously friend and dying to be filled in on the last decade and a half" (Kingsolver 59). The people are honest, warm, and friendly, traits that endear them to the reader and show their culture and beliefs at the same time. It is this welcoming nature that finally allows Codi to feel accepted and a part of something, and that is really what makes her return to Grace after her teaching contract expires. Grace has become her home, and she has learned to care for the people there, so she as "strings" now that draw her back and that is in the end her salvation.

Another aspect of the culture that Kingsolver captures is their ability to band together in stressful times. The women join forces to fight the Black Mountain Mining Company and the poisoning of their streams, and they will not take "no" for an answer. This helps Codi learn to work together as a team, something she has not been used to doing, and that adds to her salvation as well, making her feel like she belongs and has something to fight for, just like her sister. Her salvation really comes in Tucson, when she decides to return to Grace. She says, "I know. I don't want to get back on. I live here" (Kingsolver 322). She has finally embraced her family, her culture, and her town, and that is what she needed to do from the start. From the minute she left, she needed to go back, and make peace with her past, and it took her fourteen years to recognize it and do something about it. Kingsolver's story weaves culture, beliefs, and vivid characters to produce a story that is memorable and moving at the same time. She uses techniques such as dual narration, vibrant details, and an obvious love of the cultures to create a novel that is difficult to put out of your mind.

References

Kingsolver, Barbara.…