Book Review: Homeland And Other Stories

Homeland And Other Stories, by Barbara Kingslover

I got this book to read from the library because it had a story on St. Lucia and my library does not have many books on the subject.  Like much of the fiction I read [1], this book is full of Nathanish characters, at least a couple of which are actually named Nathan.  Although the book is from a well-regarded author, this was not an enjoyable book to read.  Not only do I not particularly enjoy reading short stories about the sort of subject matter that the author tackles, since they work better as therapy for the writer than enjoyable or edifying reading, but the author’s perspective is generally defective as well.  Ultimately, there is material here that could be used in a redemptive fashion, but the author is unfortunately one of those who prefer to wallow in the mud and mire rather than reach for the stars.  There is a lot of mire to be found here, and it is not enjoyable to read, not on the level of the individual stories themselves, and certainly not when the book is taken together as a larger whole, unified only by its dark perspective on the world and its love of the fallen and rebellious state of humanity.

This book, which contains a bit more than 240 pages, is composed of twelve samey stories about dysfunctional and broken families.  If you want to see the panoply of defective alternative family models and the hollowness and emptiness of contemporary left-wing social politics, this book is a refutation of the worldview of its author.  Included in this volume is a book about part-Cherokee with a family tradition of illegitimacy returning to the homeland and finding it a touristy place no one can recognize or appreciate, a story about two selfish live-in parties living in the country, a struggling single mother with an impossibly mature child dealing with the demands of life, a book about an unwise woman with a clever daughter carrying on an adulterous affair in the disappointing petrified forests of the southwest, a coming of age tale of a young woman worried about marriage and desiring to leave her small town behind like her mother did before, a story of two pregnant single women, mother and daughter, and their dysfunctional relationship, a story about two thieves who fall in love and take advantage of the elderly to profit off of antique sales, another story of a broken family and an unwanted return to an unhappy home, a story of hoodoo and Catholicism mixing in Saint Lucia full of malice and witchcraft, a melancholy teen lesbian romance, and a story of a leftist labor organizer and her struggles to keep her family and community together in the face of pressure from stereotypically exploitative business and police efforts to break a strike.  There was a lot here to irritate and annoy and offend.

It is a well-known cliche that every unhappy is unhappy differently, but that is not really the case when one becomes intimately familiar with unhappy families.  Unhappy families are often unhappy for the same boring reasons that one finds in story after story here.  There is an absence of respect, of legitimacy, of regard for God or for others, of honor and love and communication.  These stories walk over the same ground over and over again, looking at people who are deluded in many ways, and the stories themselves end up being far too samey after a while.  There are only so many dysfunctional situations one can look at, so much bogus and smug left-wing hypocrisy and self-righteous moralizing before one declares the whole book to be garbage.  This is one of those volumes about which it can be said without a shadow of a doubt that the world would be better without such a volume, and that the paper would have been better spent in almost any other possible way.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/12/30/book-review-treasure-of-the-sangre-de-cristos/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/17/book-review-a-short-time-to-stay-here/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/10/28/book-review-the-same-river/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/10/16/book-review-the-czars-madman/

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About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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