annotation by Tisha Reichle
Returning to her home town of Grace, Arizona, Cosima Noline (Codi) reunites with her friend Emelina but remains estranged from her ailing father. She takes a job as a biology teacher and discovers the town is ailing too. She also discovers secrets about her own family. Much of Kingsolver’s created family will guide me as I revise my own novel. My hope is to create that bond between people and place the way she has with the characters and Grace.
Codi’s sister, Halimeda (Hallie) has abandonded her in Arizona and is helping restore Nicaragua. This forces Codi to confront her father and unpleasant childhood memories alone. She also has to confront her sexual past and the man who eventually helps her see her own strengths and learn how to love herself.
Kingsolver artfully alternates point of view from Codi in first person to her father, Homero (Doc Homer), in 3rd person. For him, Kingsolver creates a disconnected perspective allowing readers to empathize with his deteriorating mind. Ironically, Codi as she narrates her own life she should be more in control of her own destiny, but readers soon see that is NOT the case.
The conflicts, though numerous, are believable. Codi struggles with her father’s illness, being back in Grace, her own professional apathy, her own sexuality, her sister in Nicaragua, and the memories of her mother’s death. When I list them like this it seems overwhelming, but Kingsolver has connected each person to his/her obstacle and then released him/her to resolution. I strive to have all the nuances in my own fiction evolve in this manner.
Kingsolver also weaves the Arizona desert landscape and isolated rural life eloquently into Codi’s educated consciousness. Assisted by Loyd, her Native American lover, Codi begins to see the beauty in what has always surrounded her. In this setting, she finally accepts her physical and professional insecurities. She is inspired to work for social change in her own community which finally enables her to gain self-confidence and become a permanent part of her cultural and familial history.
As a reader, I finish this novel inspired to change some injustice in my own community. This is what I want to achieve in my own writing. I want readers to be moved to action by my words.