In her new essay collection, the beloved author of High Tide in Tucson brings to us, out of one of history's darker moments, an extended love song to the world we still have.
Whether she is contemplating the Grand Canyon, her vegetable garden, motherhood, genetic engineering, or the future of a nation founded on the best of all human impulses, these essays are grounded in the author's belief that our largest problems have grown from the earth's remotest corners as well as our own backyards, and that answers may lie in both those places.
Sometimes grave, occasionally hilarious, and ultimately persuasive, Small Wonder is a hopeful examination of the people we seem to be, and what we might yet make of ourselves.
Readers familiar with Barbara Kingsolver will find that Small Wonder, a collection of 23 essays, shows the same sensitivity and thoughtfulness, the same rich knowledge of and love for the natural world, as her spellbinding novels. In "Knowing Our Place," she describes the two places in which she writes: a tin-roof cabin in Appalachia and her home in the Tucson desert. In "Setting Free the Crabs," she uses her daughter's decision not to take home a beautiful (and occupied) red conch shell from a Mexican beach to illustrate our own need to give up our sense of ownership of the earth, to resist "the hunger to possess all things bright and beautiful." Many of these pieces, like the lovely title essay, were written (or rewritten) in response to the events of September 11, which threw into relief the growing social and economic inequities that are so little remarked on in the American media. These are political essays, although Kingsolver is not a natural rhetorician; her prose is too supple and inclusive. She is more inclined to follow the turns of her mind, like water in a curving stream bed, than to hammer home a point or two. But she has a rare gift for apt allusion (from sources as wide-ranging as Robert Frost to Beanie Babies) and for the elegant use of facts and figures. And she is highly quotable. It is easy to imagine the speechwriters and activists of the next 10 years dipping into Small Wonder for inspiration and the perfect phrase. --Regina Marler