Review: Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

By , April 23, 2010

Tomorrow the Haines library book club will discuss Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (check your local book store—you’ll probably want your own copy). I’m excited, because we read and really enjoyed this book. It’ll be the first time I’ve participated in the book club. I even missed their discussion of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, a similar book that I really liked.

Kingsolver team-wrote the book with her husband and older daughter. Her younger daughter contributed as well, but was too young to sign a publishing contract. Together they describe a year of living locally, tracing the family’s adventures (and misadventures) in restricting their diet to only that which can be obtained from their area.

The book provides strong arguments for local eating, backed up with interesting and sometimes appalling facts and figures showing just how wasteful our modern food economy has become. The book is well written and entertaining, the type of book one would read aloud to one’s family, which we did. The comical passages on turkey breeding stand out particularly!

The Kingsolvers raised much of their own food on their farm in Appalachia, after “fleeing” Tucson, Arizona. Kingsolver resolved to begin the experiment after realizing that Tucson, like many of our cities, is like a space craft in that everything essential to human life must be imported from elsewhere. I find that observation very striking; it’s a terrible indictment of modern life.

The value of the book to the reader depends on how closely the lifestyle, region, and resource set compares to one’s own. They had the advantage of owning a farm in southern farming country. Not everyone will be so fortunate. We found Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet a bit more useful to our situation. Nevertheless, the book provides excellent guidance for those pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. It also contains recipes and other information that make it valuable as a reference book for anyone wishing to become a locavore.

We found it a rewarding, entertaining read. I can’t wait to discuss it with our friends and neighbors. It should be a lively discussion.

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