Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Barbara Kingsolver - Animal Dreams

"Animals dream about the things they do in the day time just like people do. If you want sweet dreams, you've got to live a sweet life." So says Loyd Peregrina, a handsome Apache trainman and latter-day philosopher. But when Codi Noline returns to her hometown, Loyd's advice is painfully out of her reach. Dreamless and at the end of her rope, Codi comes back to Grace, Arizona to confront her past and face her ailing, distant father. What she finds is a town threatened by a silent environmental catastrophe, some startling clues to her own identity, and a man whose view of the world could change the course of her life. Blending flashbacks, dreams, and Native American legends, Animal Dreams is a suspenseful love story and a moving exploration of life's largest commitments. With this work, the acclaimed author of The Bean Trees and Homeland and Other Stories sustains her familiar voice while giving readers her most remarkable book yet.

Comment: One of my favorite past times - and of all readers in some way - is to browse books and lists and read opinions of others on things we like or that we would like to try but aren't certain would work for us. I was checking an opinion on another book and the reader commented this one had a certain detail similar to that one. I immediately got curious and checked some reviews, and decided I wanted to try for myself and that was how this book got to be in my TBR.

In this story we meet Codi Noline, a woman we would say is still trying to find her place, especially after her childhood and teenage years didn't go too well in Grace, Arizona. After years of travel and med school and trying to find who she is, Codi returns to check on her father, who has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. At the same time, she is worried about her sister Hallie, volunteering in Nicaragua and also with the fact the boyfriend she had when they were teenagers is back to town too and they will meet at some point. There seems a lot to weight in on Codi's shoulders and she feels there are too many doubts about who she is for her to be able to stick around, but while she planned for an year, could it be that perhaps she has always belonged after all?

It took me a few days to read this book, something that normally wouldn't take so long but between my work demands having increased (spring and summer months always mean this) and the writing style I just couldn't dedicate as much time in a row as I would normally do. This means I had to stop and do other things many times and choppy reading for me always leaves a bitter taste, as if the book wasn't allowed to give me all its potential. However, sometimes the story is just so appealing, there's no way to run from it.

I suppose, therefore, that this is the detail that truly put me off for longer than it had to: the writing style was a little too wordy, too lengthy and a bit too much on the literary attempt, instead of just a narration of a romance or a character's story. I see this is the author's style by other reviews but although I had read another book by this author before, it was such a long time ago, I only remember some plot details, not much about the writing itself. Thinking this and having been led by the other reader's comment on how this book compared with another (which I consider a romance), I thought this would have a stronger element of precisely that, romance.

The plot isn't complicated, basically Codi, a prodigal daughter, returns to her hometown despite what she had perceived as distance from others not being them treating her as an outsider as she imagined. The whole book is about how she sees herself and what she thinks others see and how can she cope. In between, she starts to be involved with the local environmental issues, she starts to feel she needs to call attention to those, especially with the students she teaches biology to and how they can make a difference, she is dealing with her complicated relationship with a father she always believed was indifferent to her (but we learn otherwise) and she worries about her sister.

I liked all the elements which made this story work. I think the call up for environmental notions and the struggles of smaller places/countries to fight against the extinction of natural resources is a brilliant but often vain fight and it was interesting how this was inserted into the plot. I liked seeing how Codi's sister Hallie was so dedicated to this and how she wanted to make a difference locally, where the change is necessary. This part of the plot followed a path I didn't see coming, though.

I liked Codi most of the time. I could understand her thoughts about not belonging, even with clues pointing out the opposite, I could see how she felt she didn't have a good relationship wit her father but she still came back and I liked how we would see more of her personality as she was "forced" to interact with others. For me, it's really a it the way the author wrote this book made Codi also look like a whiner and sometimes an unfair person. I wanted to like her more, to be honest.

As for the romance, an element of the plot I bet some of my stronger wishes on, it was just too vague. I liked they had a past together, I liked it felt they had to reconnect like lost soulmates or something but they quickly established a sexual relationship which I feel didn't really match the emotional one they had to do together. I also feel conflicted because on one hand I liked it wasn't such a big deal Loyd was Native American and that they discussed this and his feelings but then it felt like such an obvious difference between them wasn't addressed more in the big scheme of things. Also, there's something they had to talk about, something which was major while they were teenagers, and they never do on page, we only hear about it after they talk. I felt this was unfair, such was the importance of that element to even Codi's choices in her life after leaving town.

I would say the writing style is very descriptive and makes one presume things instead of just showing the character's actions as they happen. I confess in some moments I felt too tired to read between the lines and to choose what information to retain from all the descriptions and unnecessary sentences. The author also clearly has an agenda in life and it seems all her books might contain that, in the sense there are good guys who respect nature and bad guys who destroy it. I get it, but f change was so easy, we wouldn't have problems ever.

All in all, apart from obvious messages being conveyed in how some bad things happen because we might be on the wrong side of things, the story was good enough, some scenes were poignant and the emotions related to them touching. But there were some elements I struggled with and the writing style wasn't always appealing to me.
Grade: 6/10

No comments:

Post a Comment