You may have been hearing about Barbara Kingsolver quite a lot lately – which obviously means we’re taking a look at her amazing books. The author has been praised left, right and centre, so much so that not only was she the recipient of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, she’s on the awards list for practically every major prize.
Why you may ask? Well, the American writer’s new novel Demon Copperhead has been turning heads, and was voted one of the “10 Best Books of 2022” by The Washington Post and The New York Times. The novel has been praised by critics for its honest and unflinching portrayal of poverty and addiction. It has also been compared to Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, which it closely resembles in structure and theme.
So who is Barbara Kingsolver?
Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was born on April 8, 1955, in Annapolis, Maryland, and grew up in rural Kentucky. Kingsolver's work often focuses on social and environmental issues, and her novels frequently explore themes of feminism, social justice, and the relationships between humans and the natural world.
What is Demon Copperhead about?
Demon Copperhead is a coming-of-age story about a boy named Damon Fields, who is born to a teenage single mother in a trailer park in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Damon is nicknamed “Demon” because of his copper-coloured hair and his feisty personality. He grows up in poverty and neglect, and he is often abused by his mother’s boyfriends. However, Damon is also a survivor, and he eventually finds love, friendship, and a sense of purpose in life.
The novel is set in the 1980s, and it explores the social and economic challenges facing Appalachia during that time. Kingsolver also uses the novel to examine the themes of family, love, loss, and redemption. It is a powerful and moving story about a young boy’s journey to find his place in the world.
The book is also currently shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, and Oprah Book Club pick. At a time when the region has faced a devastating opioid crisis, the book appears to be resonating with many.
Recommended books by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver has published numerous books, including:
- “The Poisonwood Bible”. A missionary family moves to the Congo in the 1950s, where they encounter the harsh realities of colonialism and the beauty of the natural world. I can vouch for this as the Poisonwood Bible is mesmerising with impeccable depth, charting the lives of a family over three decades.
- “Animal Dreams”. After 14 years in the city, a young woman returns to her hometown to find her place in the world and to fight for what she believes in.
- “Flight Behaviour”. A woman’s flight from an abusive husband leads her to a remote Appalachian town, where she discovers a mysterious flock of migrating birds.
- “The Lacuna”. In 1939, a young woman doctor leaves her husband and travels to Mexico to build a hospital, where she finds love and a new purpose in life.
- “Prodigal Summer”. Three people in rural Virginia find love and purpose in the natural world, and in each other.
Her writing has won many awards, including the National Humanities Medal, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. The author is also a political activist, and her work often reflects her commitment to social and environmental causes. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her by far. But we’re definitely at one of the peaks of Kingsolver’s career.
Read more: Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023 shortlist announced: big names and debuts
Want to know more about the Appalachian crisis? Check out the interview with In the Shadow of the Valley author Bobi Conn.