Before we settle in with Barbara, Steven, Camille, and Lily on their Virginia farm, I wanted to highlight a couple of threads in Chapter One “Called Home.” To streamline this and future discussions, I’ll call them the “Kingsolvers” or the Kingsolver Clan. Giving a deep bow of respect to hubby, Steven Hopp, it’s Barbara Kingsolver who is the principal voice (and force) of this story.
Nervous rats, the Kingsolvers scurried down the ropes of their (literally) sinking ship, Tucson, Arizona, and fled toward the green hills of Appalachia. Like the other great desert cities of America (Salt lake, Vegas, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and so on), Tucson was (and is) surviving on “borrowed” water and food trucked in from far away. The billions of gallons of water used by these “urban space stations” can never be replenished by a few inches of annual rainfall.
Are these cities viable, or perhaps the question could be asked, how long can these cities remain viable, sucking up a nearly exhausted aquifer with one straw and foreign fossil fuels with another? And that question leads to a deeper question, a question so terrible that no one wants to look at it straight in the face. For how long will any of our major metropolitan centers be sustainable?
Sustainability, a most complex and slippery topic, wafts its way through our book. “Localism” and “seasonality” are difficult constructs, but they are much safer to approach than “sustainability” with its highly charged political and social currents. You can get zapped telling people that their city and lifestyle, plans, dreams, and hopes are not sustainable.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is about good food and good family. It’s about poking a stick in the eye of the megalithic, corporate food marketers. It’s about growing your own, and loving your neighbors, and learning how to live close to the land and the food that grows on it. And it poses, ultimately, this provocative question: can sustainability itself be sustained? Maybe we’ll come back to this at the end of the book.
If food production studies, agricultural awareness, commodity subsidies and other downer topics like these are unfamiliar to you, Chapter One provides a quick orientation, but don’t fret, “Coming Home” is also full of hope, courage, and Kingsolver’s drop-dead funny imagery.
“The tall, dehydrated saguaros stood around all teetery and sucked-in like prickly supermodels.”
OK. I’ve stalled long enough. By now all you tribal players, you rowdy rogues and fallen women, should have your book. Be ready for the next “prompt,” Chapter Two, “Waiting for Asparagus” to be written by . . .