Books: On Familiar Ground

Barbara Kingsolver returns with another novel of strong women, noble issues and love of the land

Barbara Kingsolver's reputation achieved something like critical (and commercial) mass with The Poisonwood Bible (1998). Her three earlier novels, The Bean Trees (1988), Animal Dreams (1990) and Pigs in Heaven (1993), built a considerable readership, particularly among women, as offbeat, eco-feminist romances, and Kingsolver could have gone on repeating the elements that made those books popular: independent females vaguely adrift in the U.S. Southwest with strong views on such matters as honoring Native American rights and sheltering Latin American political refugees. But she extended her range dramatically in Poisonwood, a long, incantatory meditation, filtered through the memories of an American mother...

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