Thursday, September 30, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial food pipeline to live a rural life- vowing that, for one year, they'd only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.

One of the unforeseen benefits of starting my own book blog has been the fact that I've now read more non fiction books in the last year than I ever have before.  What's really wonderful about it is the wide range of topics I've been able to read about. I have since discovered a new found love of memoirs, so when I had the chance to sign up for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I jumped for it.

 I wasn't sure what I would get out of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle before I read it, and now that I'm done, I'm still not really sure what I got out of it.  When I started the book I assumed it would be a detailed account into the lives of the author and her family as they took a year off from outside sources of food and for the most part, that's what I got.  What I wasn't expecting was the almost dogmatic tone directed at the food industry as a whole.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that this book, for the most part, worked for me and I really enjoyed reading it.  I was amused and somewhat jealous of this family's year long experiment.  I can only imagine the pride of growing your own food and seeing it nourishing your family.  The sense of well earned accomplishment is one to be admired and I applaud the author for caring enough about her family to take on such a life changing journey.   It's one that I wish I had the resources to experience for myself. I would love to feed my son vegetables grown on our own land.

What I loved about this book more than anything was how personal it felt.  The author is more than willing to share all the details of her experiment.  It felt like I was living with them during that year and I never wanted to leave.  I laughed along with her while she was recounting her story of breeding heritage turkeys.  My mouth watered at some of the fantastic recipes sprinkled throughout the book, some of which I will be trying out very soon.

Where this book didn't work for me, and I may be in the minority on this one, is the almost condescending tone taken throughout the book towards the modern food industry and those of us forced to deal with it.  I'm not here to defend the industry, quite honestly I don't agree with half the things done to the animals and crops we get our food from.  Every time I see a video of a egg hatchery or a slaughter house I wish I had the luxury to swear off it's products, but like millions of other I don't. 

I know the author wasn't judging those of us who can't do what she did, but there was a tone used throughout the book that almost felt snobbish.  The sense of being better than the rest of us was implied though I don't think it was intentional.  I think when people write a memoir about any aspect of their life, a little ego will come out.  It's normal and not something done on purpose.  It's the lens we view life from.  For the most part this was a very small aspect of what I got from the book and not one that should deter anyone else from reading it.  It may be simply that I was being over sensitive and judging myself through the author's eyes.

Now I would like to say that this book changed my life and that I'll be eating differently.  This book made me want to and for a day or two after I finished with the book I was in that mind set. My reality quickly set in though and while I may be more conscious of my choices, I don't seem them changing all that much.  I will be visiting the farmers market more often to buy local, fresh produce and I will pay more attention to where my food comes from.  But in the end, though I loved reading this book, it won't be life changing for me.

You can read more about Barbara Kingsolver by visiting her website.

I would like to thank Trish of  TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to review this book.  This was part of a larger Barbara Kingsolver book tour featuring 5 of her books.  You can view all the other stops on the tour by visiting the tour page.


Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

One of my favorite things about book blogging has been the infusion of non-fiction in my reading as well. I've been wanting to read this one for a while--even started it once--but I haven't ever had the time to fully devote to it. I think I would probably fall in the same category as you--really enjoying the book and thinking it's going to change my life, but then settling back into reality. But sometimes just being more aware is a small step in the right direct? Great review.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like one that's just going to make me feel guilty. Vegetables grown in our own garden are great, but they're a lot of work. To be honest, we do it to save a little money. Tomatoes at the grocery store are way more expensive than those grown at home.

JaneGS said...

I loved this book and consider it one of the most important that I've ever read. By no means did I totally adopt their approach to procuring food, but I've made baby steps that have made me feel good--like trying to buy more locally and more in season, and thinking about the energy that goes into shipping bananas and pineapples to Colorado, for example.

I also liked the memoir aspect of the book, and the honesty about where they failed and where they triumphed.

I can understand the feeling of condescension that you picked up on--although it's not nearly as severe as that in Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.

Good review--it's harder to write non-rave reviews than raves, I find, especially when you like some aspects of a book but not others.

Simcha said...

I actually really enjoy reading non-fiction and don't get to do it as much as I would like to. I've been wanting to read this book for a while as it sounds really interesting.

bermudaonion said...

I've heard other people say they felt the book was condescending, so you're not alone. When I read it, everything they did sounded so romantic, but I know that I'm too spoiled to work as hard as they had to. I did learn how to make cheese as a result of the book, though - it's easy and the results are delicious!

Heidenkind said...

The title is kinda cheesy.

Heather J. @ TLC Books said...

I know what you mean about wanting to say the book changed your life - like you, I've read books that are really inspiring and make me want to do things differently, but then reality (or my own laziness?) sets in and I don't do anything differently. But for me it doesn't change the impact of the book, if that makes sense.

Oh, and I have to tell you: I saw a recording of Kingsolver reading the heritage turkey section and it was HILARIOUS.

Thanks for being on the tour!

Staci said...

I think your review is spot-on. She has the $$ to do a year long experiment while others do not have that luxury. I liked how you took some positive from this book and incorporated it into your life.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

That's honest. It is hard for a lot of people to really do what they want as far as living healthy or organic or whatever. Those means are hard to come by if you are poor or don't have the area around you.
I want the best for my child but sometimes I can't do al of the perfect things I would like. I understand the tone you are talking about. Not intentional but I'm sure she is full of pride for what she could do.
Great review.