Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Title:  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Author:  Barbara Kingsolver
Genre:  Non-fiction/Food memoir
Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Pages:  400
Acquired via:  Borrowed from my sister


Synopsis from  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. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

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I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but the only problem now is... I want to buy a farm.  Or at least start growing my own food.  The book really opened my eyes to how our food industry works, or more correctly, doesn't work, and how we can make even small changes in how we eat or shop for food that would positively affect our health and local economy.

Why I loved it
  • The story  -  Kingsolver and her family move back to her husband's family's farm and decide to live for one year eating only food they can grow themselves or buy locally.  They have to face challenges, like giving up certain foods, such as bananas or fresh fruit in winter, and having to butcher their own chickens and turkeys.  I don't think I could ever kill a chicken, so if I'd tried this experiment, I'd either become a vegetarian or I'd buy it from a local farmer.  But I did think it was amazing that this family was able to take on this challenge and succeed.  I found it uplifting and inspiring.
  • The tone  -  A book with nothing but dry facts about the food industry would probably have bored me to tears.  Kingsolver's book is a great read because she writes with such a great tone.  She delivers the facts but with sarcasm and humor.  And I love sarcasm, so it definitely worked for me.
  • The writing  -  The writing throughout the book is beautiful.  Descriptive as well as informative, I felt like I was reading a literary memoir while also learning something.
  • Co-authors  -  One of my favorite parts of the book was that Kingsolver's husband and daughter both contributed to the story.  Kingsolver's husband, Steven Hopp, is a college professor, and he writes small essays within each chapter.  Each one pertains to the topic Kingsolver is discussing, but his essays are more like the bare facts.  And Kingsolver's daughter, Camille, wrote a story at the end of almost every chapter.  She shared insight on how it felt to be a teenager/college student going through this huge food journey.  She also includes recipes and weekly meal plans for each month.
  • The facts  -  While I was very happy that the book wasn't just an encyclopedia of facts, I was also grateful for the inclusion of statistics and research.  It made the book and Kingsolver's stance credible.  It also helps with presenting this book or its ideas to others who might be skeptical.  Having a solid foundation in fact made the book very persuasive.
This book definitely made me think.  It also made me decide to make some changes in my lifestyle.  While I realistically won't be buying a farm, and I don't have the time/space to plant a garden, I am trying to cut out as much processed food as I can.  I also want to shop for my produce more locally, buy free-range meats and eggs, and avoid hormone-filled dairy.  Each step will not only be beneficial to my health, but it will also help support local farmers (another major focus of the book).  With all of its anecdotes, recipes, research, and humor, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is definitely an inspirational and eye-opening memoir that I would recommend to anyone.

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