Barbara Kingsolver

Animal Dreams

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Animal Dreams Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver.

Animal Dreams is the 1990 novel written by American author Barbara Kingsolver. The story follows Cosima “Codi” Noline, a beleaguered woman who returns to her hometown of Grace, Arizona to care for her father Homer, who is inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. While Codi has a strained relationship with Homer, she finds it in her heart to show love, compassion and forgiveness. Along the way, Codi reunites with her old high school friend, Emelina, and takes a job teaching biology at her former high-school. When Codi meets an attractive Apache named Lloyd Peregrina, he tells her, “if you want sweet dreams, you’ve got to live a sweet life.” The novel features Kingsolver’s signature narrative style of alternating perspectives throughout the story. The majority of chapters are told from Codi’s point of view, while the others are told from Homer’s perspective. Animal Dreams won the 1990 Edward Abbey Award for Ecofiction and the 1991 Pen/USA West Fiction Award. It was also named a 1991 American Library Association Notable Book, a New York Times Notable Book, and the Arizona Library Association Book of the Year.

Narrated in alternating perspectives, the story begins with a brief chapter told from the third-person POV of Doc Homer. Homer recalls the time his daughters, Codi and Hallie, were still young. The following chapter is narrated in the first-person by Cosima “Codi” Noline. Hallie, who lives in Tucson, Arizona with Codi and Codi’s lover Carlo, departs for Nicaragua. Hallie intends to help the budding communist regime grow crops. Not long after, Codi also departs from Tucson. She returns to her tiny rural hometown of Grace, Arizona to look after her ailing father, Homer, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Codi takes a position teaching biology at her old high school. Codi’s return isn’t an easy one at first, as she considers herself an outcast who does not get along with people in town, including her father. When she arrives at home, it’s revealed that Codi failed to obtain a medical license despite attending medical school. It’s also revealed that Codi’s child died mysteriously.

While in Grace, Codi resides in her friend Emelina Domingo’s guest-house. As the two speak, Codi’s high-school relationship with a handsome Apache named Lloyd Peregrina is rehashed. Codi learns Lloyd still lives in town and is a close friend of Emelina’s husband, J.T. Still. Codi’s time in Grace continues to make her feel like a pariah. It’s revealed that Codi and Hallie’s mother passed away after giving birth to Hallie. Codi recalls becoming pregnant and having a miscarriage with Lloyd’s baby, a secret she’s never told to anybody. Homer, the town doctor, was made aware of Codi’s pregnancy without her knowledge. When Codi encounters Lloyd, they strike up a new relationship. Despite growing up on a Native American Reservation, Lloyd is willing to leave it all behind to start a serious relationship with Codi. However, Codi can’t imagine staying in one place and is unwilling to settle down with one person. Lloyd accepts her indecision. They continue to spend time with each other, during which Lloyd teaches Codi all about Native American customs.

All the while, Grace faces a major ecological threat. The Black Mountain Mine has been polluting local water sources with large amounts of sulfuric acid and other caustic chemicals. This severely harms the economy in Grace, as farmers depend on the water to grow the pecan and fruit trees that are imperative to the town’s survival. The town solicits help from the Environmental Protection Agency, but their only response is to dam the river above the town. As the town implements this plan, it proves to be just as problematic as the pollution. As a result, the elderly townswomen who attend the weekly Stitch and Bitch Club devise their own plan. They fashion piñatas adorned with peacock feathers with a note pinned on them describing Grace’s existential threat. The women sell the piñatas in Tucson. Emelina’s mother-in-law, Viola, is a chief organizer of the Stitch and Bitch Club. Because of this and due to her useful education, Codi joins the women in their cause. She encourages her students to help as well. As Codi becomes a vital cog in saving the town, she begins to learn more about her family’s past. She learns the tale Homer told her as child, about the whole town being related to each other and that their family were outsiders, might be false.

Codi and Hallie, who’ve always had a tight kinship, swap Christmastime letters. On Christmas Day, Homer is informed over the telephone that Hallie has been abducted in Nicaragua by the United States-supported Contras. Codi is highly distressed. She spends the next few months in a state of despair while desperately searching for Hallie. By now, the publicity around the Stitch and Bitch has reached an all-time high. As such, a high-profile art dealer arrives in Grace to offer a solution. The town is encouraged to apply Grace as a Historic Place and obtain government protection for their crops and water supply. As Codi researches Grace in order to apply as a Historic Place, she begins to learn more about her family. She learns that both her mother and father are natives of Grace and happen to be related to everyone in town. Codi learns Homer hails from the founding Gracela sisters, and that he changed his name so everyone would think he and his wife were outsiders. Although the community indulged them in this ruse, they are aware of the truth. The news emboldens Codi to feel like less of an outcast in Grace. However, Codi still plans to depart from Grace when her one-year teaching contract expires.

As the school year ends, Hallie’s corpse is located in Nicaragua. The Stitch and Bitch Club applies for Grace to be recognized as a Historic Place, and the Black Mountain Mine agrees to close operations and clean the river. Codi departs from Grace with Carlo, doing so out of convenience rather than her love for him. Codi boards a plane to visit Carlo, but engine trouble causes it to turn around. When the plane lands safely in Tucson, Codi quickly takes a train back to Grace. She throws a memorial ceremony for Hallie, which the entire town attends. As the ceremony closes, Codi and Homer reconcile their rocky relationship. Codi tells Lloyd about losing his child in the past. Homer dies one year later. In the end, Codi continues teaching in Grace and becomes pregnant with Lloyd’s second child.