Animal, Vegetable, Miracle follows the family through the first year of their experiment. They find themselves eager to move away from the typical food scenario of American families: a refrigerator packed with processed, factory-farmed foods transported long distances using nonrenewable fuels. In their search for another way to eat and live, they begin to recover what Kingsolver considers our nation's lost appreciation for farms and the natural processes of food production. Americans spend less of their income on food than has any culture in the history of the world, but they pay dearly in other ways: losing the flavors, diversity, and creative food cultures of earlier times. The environmental costs are also high, and the nutritional sacrifice is undeniable: on our modern industrial food supply, Americans are now raising the first generation of children to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Part memoir and part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.
©2007 Barbara Kingsolver; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers
"Kingsolver has the ear of a journalist and the accuracy of a naturalist." (Publishers Weekly)
I read In Defense of Food in about a day, but this is really hard to get through. There is so much detail- about everything. I'm not a hard-core farmer, just a gardener looking for some gems of information for my little yard. She goes into such detail about every little thing that it makes me wonder if it would go quicker as a 'read' rather than a listen, or if I should have looked for an abridged version first.
Barbara Kingsolver does know how to tell a good story. She manages to turn what can be a very boring topic and makes it relatively interesting. For anyone who hasn't grown a large garden, eaten their own food, or know why asparagus isn't available in August, then this is a good book. She talks about why, when and how food is grown.
In the vein of making a good story she also anthromorphize all animals and plants. For example, the end story turns a large part on turkeys she is raising. Having raised the exact breed of turkeys she does perhaps gave me a little more insight. Her story is cute, but they aren't people. Applying human attributes to turkeys, or any animal, is annoying and not very helpful. They will squat or want to mate with a towel on a stick.
You also have to be careful. She wants to return her turkeys to a more "natural" animal that can raise their young and help the breed survive. This desire may kill the breed. Bourbon Red Turkeys have never lived on their own, they are a commercial breed developed in the 1900 and raised for meat. If you want to save the breed you need people to buy the meat, which then encourages people to raise the breed to meet the demand. This means it has to be affordable. Having birds sit on their own eggs and raise the breed means a female may raise 6 or 7 birds a year. They can produce up to 50 eggs/year, artificially incubated that's 50 turkeys. Heritage turkeys are already expensive enough to raise and sell, you don't need to increase costs more. Over the last 100 years they almost died out since they have little economic value and are raised as a hobby. If we're not careful they will be lost forever.
Her parts of the book are mixed with commentary from her partner and daughter. She's pretty lose with the facts in the first place, but in these asides lack total balance or realism. They really do detract from the book.
After listening to about 2/3 of this book, I took it off my iPod. Just the narrators' tones alone made it difficult enough, but then the book got preachy. I admire Barbara Kingsolver and love her fiction. I respect her family's life choices and applaud their commitment to sustainable food sources. Just give me professional narrators, especially if some of the content tends toward the righteous.
Dianne in Canada
I, like another reader am a gardener into healthy living and eating. I expected to learn something new or to at least be entertained. If you want to learn about gardening and healthy eating read Michael Pollans book "The Omnivores Dilema". This book wouldn't have been so bad if: 1-the older daughter Camille left her contributions out - they are really shallow and narrow minded and she obviously hasn't reserached her facts very well, and 2-if the book had been narrated by someone else, not the author.
If you want to fall asleep just start listening to this book. It is read at a painfully slow pace and is mostly boring and only occasionally entertaining. I couldn't finish it. It was too painful listening to the monotone drawl.
Kingsolver is another example of why authors should not read their own books. I have to turn the volume down very low because her voice annoys me so much. The fact that she is more concerned with trying to sound a certain way than getting her ideas expressed are obvious. I haven't yet made it past the first hour. I may have to buy the paperback and scratch the audiobook.
These voices were not meant for naration. I had a hard time focusing on the story and mental imagery simply because I could not ignore this fact.
Being a gardener and back to basics advocate I expected this to be an entertaining listen. I had a hard time finishing it. The authors come off as smug and superior. The narration sounds as if read by a school child giving a report in front of the class. They have some good points but are presented with a very condescending tone.
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