Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Small Wonder

Am loving the essays in Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver. This novelist and essayist has degrees in biology and most of her thoughts in this book are pleas for the planet. I know she has written many fiction books but it is her essays that interest me. I have not read any of her fiction.

She grew up in rural Kentucky and has an affinity for the planet and its creatures. She and her family now live on a farm in Virginia and, according to her website, have an extensive vegetable garden and raise Icelandic sheep (who knew?). She won the Orange Prize in 2010 for her book The Lacuna.

But back to the essays. Most begin with a personal story that then leads into the heart of what she wants to say. They are informative and inspiring. Kingsolver writes with affection about hiking with her family along the San Pedro river in the desert; of seeing brightly colored macaws flying from tree to tree in the jungle; and, of her daughter Lily's experience with raising chickens.

That's the good news. The bad news is the river is drying up due to development of the lands along it. The macaws are an endangered species and she was thrilled to see them in their natural habitat against the blue sky and not through the bars of a cage in a zoo or, heaven forbid, a pet shop. Although her daughter's chickens offered free breakfast with the laying of the first egg, it also brought on a conversation about corporate farming and the injunction not to name the animals you are raising to eat.

All these pieces are written with warmth, humor, and intelligence. They will break your heart if you linger too long.

From the dilemma of whether to kill a hermit crab that has taken up residence in a perfect conch shell on the beach (they didn't) to the killings at Columbine High School, Kingsolver's essays make me stop and ponder the world and its infinite variety and consider what small steps I can take to protect it.

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