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Amber's Thoughts

Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series



Pandora's Mountain

The life cycles of families, communities, wildlife, seasons, and farming seem steady—a timeless and reliable rhythm—but disaster can undermine them. When unwelcome change comes to a safe and predictable world, people tend to hide from that truth until they can’t anymore. The protagonist Dellarobia Turnbow gives her kindergartener son an apt metaphor for this behavior near the end, one so down-to-earth and accurate it can’t be improved on. I’ll leave it to you to find, because this is a book to finish. It’s an end worth reaching.


In the beginning, Dellarobia's encounter with a mountain full of monarch butterflies seems like a personal revelation or message, then like a miracle for her community. It turns out to be neither, and yet it does bring revelation s of another kind, hard truths that can’t be put back in their box.


Dellarobia is a compelling character, tough, funny, flawed, smart, a better mother than wife. Out of both kindness and restless curiosity, she crosses the boundaries between her rural Appalachian community and the outsider scientists who come to study the phenomenon she discovered. Through this young woman’s story, Kingsolver explores class, culture, education, climate science, and religion without making caricatures or fools out of the people on any side of the complex issues. Her writing is beautiful, with a sense of humor built from relationships and situations and a sense of tragedy that is also grounded. Vast changes that affect that the world affect people, affect this one family, their land, their farm’s animals, their marriage, and their future.


Every character is one hundred percent real, even the minor ones who pass through. Dellarobia's husband Cub is an understated masterpiece, a character in whom the author reveals depth he himself is barely able to reach. The pastor, the mother-in-law, the best friend—none are mere sidekicks or role-fillers. Even the maligned news reporter who gets her comeuppance is a whole person.


The plotting is flawless. A writer could study this book for how to set up extraordinary and life-changing events. Everything is prepared, subtly and strategically, so by the time a discovery, a confession, catastrophe, a symbolic connection, or a major decision occurs, the reader is moved but not stunned. I didn’t see everything coming, yet when it happened, I had the feeling that of course I’d seen it coming, or could have.


When this book first came out, oddly enough, I didn’t think the plot premise sounded especially readable or interesting. I’m glad I got past that impression and finally got around to reading it. This is as good as The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible, and far better than The Lacuna. Kingsolver, the Appalachian farmer of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle comes through at her best. Even the Author’s Notes are worth reading.