Writers as Readers Review – Animal Dreams


by Linda Kleczkowski

The first Tuesday in June was a perfect spring evening, sunny skies and balmy temperatures. No wonder nearly half of our WaR group was MIA. Despite the lower than normal attendance, discussion of our June book selection, Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver was lively and insightful.

Animal Dreams, published in 1990, is a stunning ride in visual imagery. Set in the 1980s against a backdrop of questionable corporate mining practices in the southwest and the US backed unrest in Nicaragua, the story takes place in a fictional mining town called Grace, Arizona. The protagonist Cosima “Codi” Noline reluctantly returns to her hometown to care for her father who is beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

The one person in the world who Codi feels truly connected to, her younger sister Halimeda “Hallie”, has left Tucson, where they lived, to help the people of Nicaragua with crop cultivation, which leaves Codi to have to deal with their distant father by herself.

Codi finds it difficult to return to her hometown where, as a child, she felt like an outsider – different. Back home in Grace she confronts the ghosts of her past and discovers some “secrets” to her lingering feelings of being “not one of them”.

The story is expertly told through two different POVs. The majority of the book is in Codi’s first person perspective. Filling in some of the blanks of the past are several chapters from Codi and Hallie’s father, Homero, which are told in third person.

As with all of Kingsolver’s novels, Animal Dreams is filled with themes – cultural, ecological, and familial; most notably Hispanic and Native American traditions and beliefs; the devastating effects of corporate mining operations on local waterways and communities; and the differing affects that family histories have on family members.

While all in the group agreed that Kingsolver’s writing style is very visual, some found it hard to “get into” and admitted had it not been a WaR selection they would not have finished it.

Some comments were that Kingsolver’s writing was too loose and that the ending felt a bit rushed and too tidy. Several members also felt that Hallie got short shifted and wished that Kingsolver had delved into Homero, the father, a little more as well.

Our July selection is the group’s first suspense/thriller, Die Easy by Zoe Sharp.