“Animals dream about the things they do in the daytime, just like people do. If you want to have sweet dreams, you’ve got to live a sweet life.” Those are the words of Loyd Peregrina, Apache engineer and philosopher, one of the characters in Tucson writer Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Animal Dreams. The recipient of Loyd’s musings, Codi Noline, has just returned to her hometown of Grace, Arizona, to deal with her distant, ailing father, and to confront her past. Grace is being threatened by an environmental disaster, and Codi finds herself caught up in the struggle to save the town, and, by extension, her own sanity and place in the world. At the same time, her only sister Hallie has gone to Nicaragua, at the height of the fighting between the U.S.-backed contras and the peasants, to help teach farming techniques to the natives whose lives have been shattered by the violence.
“For the first time in my life then, and just for a few seconds, I was able to see Doc Homer as someone I felt sorry for. It was a turning point for me, one of those instants of freakishly clear sight when you understand that your parent might have taken entirely the wrong road in life, even if that road includes your own existence. I pitied Doc Homer for his slavish self-sufficiency. For standing Hallie and me in the kitchen and inspecting us like a general, not for crooked hems so much as for signs of the weakness of our age: the lipstick hidden in a book satchel, the smoldering wish to be like everyone else. Being like no one else, being alone, was the central ethic of his life. Mine, too, to some extent, not by choice but by default. My father, the only real candidate for center of my universe, was content to sail his private sea and leave me on my own. I still held that against him. I hadn’t thought before about how self-sufficiency could turn on you in old age or sickness. The captain was going down with his ship. He was just a man, becoming a child. It became possible for me to go back to Grace.”
Codi’s story, though fiction, speaks to anyone who’s ever had to deal with feeling out of place or lost. It seems that, yes, you can go home again, and in getting there, realize where and what home is. Kingsolver has given us the gift of a trip to love and forgiveness in Animal Dreams; be sure to read all about it.
Copyright © 2003, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.