Cosima – a name meaning something akin to “order in the cosmos” – ironic in that the name-bearer in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams has lived a life devoid of anything resembling structure and a plan. In Kingsolver’s novel, we follow Codi (the name Cosima prefers for herself) on a journey of discovery and understanding of who she is and what she wants while she confronts her past and tries to connect with her emotionally distant father who is swiftly succumbing to Alzheimer’s. Codi’s introspective adventure is made more challenging due to her having to cope with the hallow ache of her missing other half, her beloved sister Hallie who, at the beginning of the novel, is Nicaragua-bound to aid the development of agriculture for the local people in the country. Rather than be excited and hopeful of her sister’s unique opportunity, Codi lives in a constant state of anxious uncertainty about Hallie’s safety knowing she is going into a war zone where Contras readily kill innocent civilians.
Animal Dreams has long been a favorite book of mine. I’ve read it numerous times and have filled many a journal page with its memorable quotes. Barbara Kingsolver uses rich, beautiful language to describe complex truths. This novel is weighty. It is humorous. It is relatable. It is heartbreaking and yet hopeful. There are moments in the book that utterly wreck me, but I love it even more for being able to have that effect. Whether you have never given Barbara Kingsolver a chance or you have devoured her other, perhaps more well-known novels such as The Poisonwood Bible or The Bean Trees, be sure not to let this gem escape your radar any longer.
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver DB32451
Codi returns to Arizona to teach high school and care for her aging father. Her life is complicated by efforts to save the town from environmental catastrophe, and the renewal of an old love affair with a Native American man. Meanwhile, her sister Hallie, in Nicaragua helping peasant farmers in their fight for social justice, is captured by the “Contras.” Their story is one of commitment and suspense. By the author of “The Bean Trees.”