Friday, June 11, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Book Review

Kingsolver's book is a month by month (an entire year) journal of her family's commitment to become self sustaining. 
That sentence sounds bland at best, but this book is anything but.  I can honestly say that I savored this book; it is not a dramatic, climactical narrative (except for the part about the turkey chicks), but I did not want it to end.  I even had the newest Sookie and James Patterson Women's Murder Club mysteries waiting on me, but I could not be pulled away from Kingsolver's family, nor could I rush my way through the book.

Kingsolver begins her story as her family is pulling away from Arizona to return to their family roots.  Kingsolver herself grew up in Kentucky, and her husband was an Iowa native.  Their desire to become self-sustaining is inspired by many things, not just one incident or political ideal.  Their greatest motivation, however, is the well being of their family.

Kingsolver takes the reader through a 12 month cycle of planting, waiting on the yield, harvest, and then the months in between before the cycle begins again.  Kingsolver combines her sarcastic wit with research and experience to take the reader through these processes almost as if you are a part of the family.  Her husband Steven, a biology professor, and her daughter Camille write separate portions for each chapter chronicling their own perspectives on the family's journey as well as the science behind their choices (Steven) and nutritious recipes and ideas on how to feed a family organized around in season produce (Camille).

Kingsolver never preaches.  Her story is her own.  It is what her family did and why they did it.  She reiterates throughout the book that each family must make its own decisions about how to live their lives.  I agree with her wholeheartedly here...if an idividual or family decides to take on any of the goals of the Kingsolver/Hopp household, the key to success, I believe, is just that...belief and an understanding of what it is that you've subscribed to as well as why you've subscribed.  Kingsolver never judges those who choose not to live her lifestyle while still somehow is able to show how many of the Kingsolver/Hopp choices are good not only for individual families, but also the rest of the world.

Kingsolver, a famous author in her own right, mentions her placement on the 100 Most Dangerous People in America list.  I was familiar with this list prior to reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and am actually frightened after finishing this book as to why she might be considered a danger.
Since when did thinking for oneself, making decisions for ones life and family and even caring enough about the environment to try and give back at every turn become a DANGER to our society??
I'm reminded of the short story The Lottery.
Many people do the things they do based on the fact that it's the way those things have always been done. 
I believe that's called blind conformity. 

After talking with some of our agricultural experts at my college during registration, I found that what Kingsolver "discovered" for her family and presents in a most non-threatening, non-judgemental way is not news to those "in the business."
The market demands more meat and produce than is actually healthy for the average human, and to meet that demand, foods are forced to grow out of season, and meat is produced at such rates that quantity has far surpassed quality.
Obviously, this is no secret.
I actually expected arguments from our ag faculty.
I got none.

One of the places where Kingsolver really got my attention was the story about her turkeys who had been artifically reproduced so long that there were not even any books or Internet sources that discussed turkey reproduction anymore when her turkeys became mature enough to begin naturally reproducing.   Kingsolver had to reintroduce her turkeys to reproduction...and her hens to motherhood.  Kingsolver had to guide her turkeys to have turkey sex , male and female, and to take care of the eggs while waiting for them to hatch.

I'm sorry.  But there is something wrong with that.

Again, none of this info was news to the ag faculty at our college.
The meat professionals even told me that whether or not "produce" can stand at the time of slaughter is not really all that important.
They were not as appalled as I was...they didn't like it...didn't think it was the way things should be...but  they accepted reality for what it is...industry driven.


What Kingsolver's book did for me was give me grounds for asking questions.
I think everyone needs to find out for himself/herself the truth about how our food is grown, harvested and sold...then, each person can decide what he/she can or can't live with and make some beginning changes with families.  Imagine what could be accomplished if each person and/or family made just a few small changes.

If you are truly interested in becoming more self sustaining and being kinder to the environment and the world with which we have been blessed, you will enjoy Kingsolver's book.

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