four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
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0

A Year of Food Life

A-Animal, Vegetable, MiracleThe Kingsolver family, with novelist Barbara as matriarch, leaves its home in Tucson and moves to an ancestral farm in southern Appalachia. The goal? To live for a year eating only food grown on the farm or those nearby. That means constant zucchini in the summer, canned vegetables in the winter, learning the intricacies of turkey mating, and welcoming back-breaking labor. Since food typically travels an average of 1,500 miles before it arrives on our plates, this first-person account explores how we can create a closer relationship with the food we eat and why we should try.
HarperCollins. 384 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 0060852550

Boston Globe 4.5 of 5 Stars
"My great fear in reviewing this book is that I might make it sound like the treatise of a hokey earth mother and do-gooder, rather than a profound, graceful, and literary work of philosophy and economics, well tempered for our times, and yet timeless." Rick Bass

San Francisco Chronicle 4.5 of 5 Stars
"By turning to nonfiction, [Kingsolver] allows herself the luxury of making overtly political points without worrying about the demands of art—though, like all her work, this one offers felicities of style and a sense of form." Jonah Raskin

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"This is a serious book about important problems. … It may give you a serious case of supermarket guilt … but you’ll also find unexpected knowledge and gain the ability to make informed choices about what—and how—you’re willing to eat." Bunny Crumpacker

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a wonderfully neighborly account of stunt eating. … Without sentimentality, this book captures the pulse of the farm and the deep gratification it provides, as well as the intrinsic humor of the situation." Janet Maslin

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Kingsolver remains aware of how challenging most readers will find her program. … But she generally succeeds at adopting the warm tone of a confiding friend who can win you over with self-deprecating, you-too-can-make-cheese-every-day enthusiasm." Corby Kummer

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There is nothing lacking in either imagery or in Kingsolver’s ability to spin a tale. … [She] is, however, trying to impart a lot of information and there are times when the reader begins to feel overloaded." Robin Vidimos

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Kingsolver passionately pencils out the ultimate savings of going organic. It looks great on paper, but when I go to the grocery store and have to choose between the agribusiness-produced green peppers or organically farmed peppers at five times the price, guess which one I’m going with?" Barbara Lloyd McMichael

Critical Summary

In this very topical memoir, Kingsolver has penned a "heroic story" that demonstrates how "growing your own fruits and vegetables, with people you love, can be as rewarding an experience as any on the face of the earth" (San Francisco Chronicle). It also may mark the first time fresh asparagus has been documented with such rapture. The author’s passion and narrative prowess make Animal an entertaining, often page-turning read. Her biologist husband Steven offers pithy sidebars about the politics of sustainable agriculture, as well as advice on how to make a change at home. Eldest daughter Camille supplies simple, nutritious recipes. Their combined efforts resulted in nearly universal praise from the critics.