"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Book Review: Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

The Great Readers of M are participating in the 2008 Kalamazoo Reading Together program for the month of February. This year's selection was Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. As my friends and book reading discussion group know I am NOT a Barbara Kingsolver fan. I hated Poisenwood Bible, but thought I would give Ms. Kingsolver another chance. Never again. I have never been so bored and it was pure torture to get through this drible.

After decades of familial estrangement, a woman temporarily returns to her western hometown to be a doctor-turned-school-teacher and care for her father, a newly diagnosed Alzheimer's Disease patient. She finds solace in the company of her extended family and also the arms of an old high school crush.

If you value your time or effort, you will stop right here and now, and not waste either on this publication. The main character is an irresponsible middle-aged female who flits from one idea to the next without reason, rational thought or accountability. She reviews her pursuit of a medical career, only to quit a few months short of the completion of her training and complain about it. She bounces from one domestic fling to another and then expresses her dismay. She moves from one geographic location to another, only to (you guessed it) gripe about moving. Additionally, her reasons for really returning to her hometown are not extraordinarily clear, since her initial one-year plan did not include staying to care for her father throughout the duration of his terminal illness. Time and time again I ask of Kingsolver, "What is your point?"

The title is gleaned from a short conversation between characters who witness a slumbering dog in dream state pursuit. The author and characters may only guess what that animal could be dreaming about, for only his legs move as he sleeps, but can't quite see into his dream. Kingsolver vaguely attempts to tie this concept to the behavior of human beings, but never quite pulls it off. In a few weak examples, her Alzheimer's Disease patient is voicing a completely rational thought that seems so ludicrous to those who cannot see into his mind.

I may only venture to guess that the author's intentions were much like those states of dreamy consciousness. I was never quite sure of her intentions, because even her written word will not reveal what is on her mind.

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