Book Review: Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver

If you’re looking for a short story collection, Homeland and Other Stories is a good one. Kingsolver’s stories mostly focus on families and relationships, with a couple of them delving into social issues. She packs a lot into a short story.

This book served a dual purpose for me. First, I was in a bit of a reading slump and short stories are a good remedy for that. I think it has to do with the commitment. You don’t have to invest a lot of time in a short story. The other purpose of reading this particular collection is that I wanted to check out Barbara Kingsolver’s writing. I’ve never read anything by her and she has some novels that look interesting, including The Poisonwood Bible, a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer.

I like the way she writes. Here are a couple of passages that I thought were particularly striking:

“They called their refugee years The Time When We Were Not, and they were forgiven, because they had carried the truth of themselves in a sheltered place inside the flesh, exactly the way a fruit that has gone soft still carries inside itself the clean, hard stone of its future.”

And

“Janice was a careful person, not given to adventure, and in any case tended to stick to those kids like some kind of maternal adhesive. Any act of God that could pick off Janice without taking the lot would be a work of outstanding marksmanship.”

Barbara Kingsolver has a fondness for similes. In fact, I counted three just on one page. Similes can go terrifically bad if the writer isn’t on their game. But Ms. Kingsolver is up for the task, delivering these fine examples:

“The mobile homes are arranged like shoeboxes along the main drive, with cars and motorbikes parked beside them, just so many toys in a sandbox.”

And

“On the deserted banana plantation the long drainage ditches, channels of infected water, shone like an army of luminous snakes marching toward the sea.”

Also

“In her minds eye she sees Rennie in her place: small and pale, sunk back into the puffy pink of her goosedown jacket like a lump of risen dough that’s been punched down.”

I love the visual images these similes create in my head. They’re so much more effective than just a straight up description. They add special seasoning to her stories and make me want to read more.

Now, the question is: which of her novels should I start with? What do you recommend?

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver

  1. I was glad to read your review, because I’ve only read Kingsolver’s novels, not her short stories. These sound great, and sometimes short stories are just what is needed! I’m a huge Kingsolver fan – and have read The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Flight Behavior, and the Bean Trees. They are all wonderful. The two that have stuck with me were Prodigal Summer and The Poisonwood Bible. The characters are so clearly drawn and the settings so compelling, that I still remember them years later. I would recommend starting with Prodigal Summer. It is shorter – Poisonwood Bible is quite a long narrative. But Kingsolver is a great writer, and I bet you’ll enjoy any of her books that you pick up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read the Poisonwood Bible – it’s been a while and I can’t honestly recall much but I must have liked it because I read Unsheltered. Unsheltered was good – the family is a little quirky but aren’t we all. 🙂
    .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was glad to read your review on this book because the only book by Kingslover I have read is The Lacuna as part of a book club many years ago. While there were some interesting things in it, overall, I didn’t enjoy the story so I never read another of her books. However, I have wondered about The Poisonwood Bible as the story sounds intriguing. I just wasn’t willing to commit to over 400 pages with my previous Kingslover experience. So, a book of short stories may be just the thing to get me to commit!

    Liked by 1 person

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