Friday, June 11, 2021

Fiction Review: Animal Dreams

Last month, I listened to Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver, which was like comfort food for my soul. She is one of my favorite authors, and her novels, The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees (along with its sequel, Pigs in Heaven), are among my all-time favorite books. Like those, this is an earlier novel (published in 1990), and she reads the audio herself. Also like those other novels, Animal Dreams was heartwarming, thoughtful, and engaging.


Codi has returned to her tiny hometown in Arizona for the first time since she left after high school, decades ago. She hasn’t been in close touch with her father, the town doctor, but she's heard he's suffering from dementia. Her beloved sister, Haley, is in Nicaragua (the novel is set in the 80's), helping the farmers there, so Codi is on her own. With Haley away and a relationship recently ended, Codi is at loose ends. She’s staying at the home of her best friend, who has a family, and is seeing people again that last saw her in high school. And she’s working for a year as the science teacher at her old high school. As with most of Kingsolver's novels, there is an environmental crisis here (though it’s not the main story), along with Native American cultures and legends. Codi is struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with her life ... and maybe falling in love with her high school boyfriend.


I absolutely loved listening to this book on audio; it was the perfect accompaniment to time spent weeding and digging in the garden. Kingsolver has the most wonderful, soothing voice and completely inhabits the characters she is narrating (listen to the audio sample below to see what I mean). As with all Kingsolver novels, her characters were fully developed; I was really rooting for Codi to figure things out and find her place in the world. There is also a gentle sense of humor throughout the book: I loved hearing about the “stitch and bitch club,” the group of older women in town who get together to sew. There are multiple interesting plotlines, though it never felt confusing or overcrowded. She is a master storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Kingsolver narrate this beautifully written, gentle, lyrical story. 


384 pages, Harper Perennial



Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, to hear Kingsolver's lovely, soothing voice as first Doc and then Codi narrate from the beginning of the book, and/or download it from Audible.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!

Or you can order Animal Dreams from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. This sounds like a wonderful story—I love the description of "comfort food for [your] soul!" I got sucked into an Internet rabbit hole reading Kingsolver's writing advice on her website, and she sounds like an incredibly wise and talented author from the looks of it. Thanks so much for the great review!

    1. It's the sort of book you want to hug to your chest when you finish! (except I was listening on audio). If you've never read Kingsolver before, The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees are my favorites :)

  2. I may have mentioned that I loved this book. It is one of the few that I have re-read. I am definitely a fan of the earlier Kingsolver novels, up to Prodigal Summer.

    1. Same, Helen. I have enjoyed her more recent novels, especially Unsheltered, but these early ones are my favorites! Poisonwood Bible blew my mind - both times I read it!