Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver

Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver, is the story of a young woman's return to her hometown of Grace, Arizona. It is a Bildungsroman in which our protagonist, Codi Noline, is forced to come to terms with her stern and ailing father, the town's doctor, and understand her ancestry. Motherless and believing herself an outsider in a tightly-knit community, Cody has lived a life without roots and emotional ties. Having secretly miscarried as a pregnant teenager, she is unable to complete her medical school residency after witnessing a difficult delivery.

Believing herself to be a failure, she idolizes her younger sister, Hallie, whom she believes to be beautiful and idealistic. Hallie has gone to war-torn Nicaragua to teach farming methods to the poor. We know of Hallie through her letters and through the thoughts of her sister.

Animal Dreams is a book about love, redemption, and forgiveness. It is about understanding a parent, a lost love, and most important, oneself. Moreover, the backdrop of the silent poisoning of a river at the hands of a mining company is made more pertinent in the wake of the British Petroleum disaster.

This book, originally published in 1990, seems very current 20 years later. Its themes of harmony and change are intended both on a personal and global scale. Never preachy, Animal Dreams is a compelling story to be enjoyed by adults and young adults alike.

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