Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Review: Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I just finished this book, and I recommend it highly. As you all know, I talk a lot about food on this blog, and food is entirely the subject of this book.

Animal Vegetable Miracle is the autobiographical story of Ms. Kingsolver and her family as they try to eat only local food for a year. As she lets you know right off the bat, they are not totalitarian about it, but they go much further than most would. It is made easier (and harder) by the fact that they live in a fertile valley and own a little bit of workable land (they also own a large amount of unworkable forest where they go hunting for morels, which makes me very jealous), which allows them to grow most of that food themselves.

Kingsolver was an accomplished fiction writer before she published this book (The Bean Trees comes highly recommended by both my wife and mother in law), and her skill with prose brings this story to life in vivid detail. She paints her daughters and her husband with color and life, and even more impressive: she approaches the character of herself with the proper blend of humor, humility, and respect.

The story is fun, informative, and engaging. It looks closely at every aspect of our food culture through the lens of a family trying to decide what to eat, which makes a lot of difficult issues very accessible. This sense of family involvement is not just a literary device, either: her husband and her elder daughter contribute essays which pepper the text (as Ms. Kingsolver puts it, the younger daughter contributes chicken eggs, because apparently it is difficult to work out a book deal for minors).

Courtney picked this book up when we were looking for information on starting a home garden, and although it is by no means a how-to text, it contains tons of useful information about growing your own food. It also manages to get its message across without seeming moralistic or judgmental, largely because one gets the sense that Kingsolver is herself not judgmental, but rather just an ordinary (albeit it eloquent) woman trying to figure out how to do things right.

In short, a must read for anyone interested in food.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book a few months ago and LOVED it. Like, LOVED it. Her writing is so vivid, and I found myself daydreaming about moving to the country/forest and starting a farm. I wanted chickens. I wanted the fields. I wanted the morels. And oh lord, the food.

    I still want to have an honest-to-goodness garden (not just a little window box and a few house plants), but until I have the yard space, I will just dream. And maybe re-read this book. I love it that much.