High Tide in Tucson Review
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She's best known for her novels, but here in this collection of essays originally conceived and published in different magazines, Barbara Kingsolver ruminates about the concepts that engage her while she describes what she was doing at the time. Certainly it helps in the reading that she's often doing something a little less ordinary than most of us. You'll find her traveling in the West African country of Benin, in Hawaii, and in one of the remote Canary Islands. In other essays, she travels as an author, as a tourist and as a rock band member. (The Rock Bottom Remainders. She's a band member with Amy Tan who's written her own book of essays. See Don Kelley's review.)

I think though that I like her best when her travels are a little more ordinary. When she tries to cope with a lack of fashion sense, worries about her parenting choices, and gushes about the power and delight of reading, I am there with her.

  
 
"Now, with my adolescence behind me and my daughter's still ahead, I am nearly speechless with gratitude for the endurance and goodwill of librarians in an era that discourages reading." Amen to that, I say.

"A novel," she continues in another essay, "works its magic by putting a reader inside another person's life…The power of fiction is to create empathy. It lifts you away from your chair and stuffs you gently down inside someone else's point of view."

And so she also talks about the writers who have influenced her, such as Henry David Thoreau and Doris Lessing and Annie Dillard. As in most good essay collections, readers get to go along for the ride, not so much to see what Kingsolver sees, but to consider the view from her chair, not ours. It's a fun exercise, made lovely by an insightful writer with a gift for speaking eloquently about her life. I don't always agree with what she says, but I admire the style and the depth of feeling and the thought she gives to each piece. A keeper.



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