Thank you for joining the Partners in Health and Wholeness Book Club. You can officially sign-up here. Through it, we hope to engage people of faith in discussions over why our health matters. Our current choice of reading is “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver. Just look for the picture of the apple and the books and you will find past Book Club entries.
We have been on a journey with Barbara Kingsolver, following her year of committed local eating. We have seen the variety, uniqueness, and beauty of each season. We have also witnessed what it means to be deeply connected to a place — to the land, plants, animals, and neighbors through her experiences, even if we have not experienced this for ourselves. And now, her year has come to an end.
I love the way Kingsolver ends her book — on a note of resounding hope. Sometimes, when I finish an excellent book I am not quite ready to put it down, and not ready to move on to the next book. I had that experience with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
In the past few chapters, Kingsolver has walked us through the plights of trying to raise a sustainable, naturally reproducing herd of heritage breed turkeys. The mating and parenting instincts are being lost in many of these animals. On most farms the humans use technology to take care of the mating, incubating, and hatching of young turkeys. This means that those with exceptional mothering instincts do not have a better chance of passing on these traits. Through a long and dramatic process of trying to support her herd and guide them in these basic “life skills,” she has a nest full of eggs and one hen that has taken to caring for them. However, it is truly a waiting game to see if these eggs are going to make it. She says, “a hundred things can go wrong with the first breeding attempt of an animal that was not even selected, to begin with, for its reproductive wits.” To name a few, there is the threat of infertility in first year males, bacteria, and the chance that the mother left the nest — even for an hour — on a chilly night. So, needless to say, she was counting down the days to see if these eggs would hatch. The date came and went, letting the suspense linger a little longer.
Our journey with Kingsolver ends with her and Lilly dancing around the barn celebrating the newness of life. Babies! The chicks are hatching, and they get to see firsthand the unbelievable miracle of life at its very start — babies pecking their way into the world. They represent hope for the future — the future of this herd, this heritage breed, and even for the future of sustainable farms. She has talked us through a year of food life and the many cycles, processes, and transformations that go with it. Though newly opened to the complexities of our food choices, she leaves us celebrating life and the incredible possibilities that come with each new beginning.
1. What did you take away from reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? Did you have a favorite scene, quote, or recipe?
2. How will your food choices change from reading this book?
3. What book would you be interested in reading next with PHW’s Book Club discussion? We would love to hear your thoughts about future reading! Thank you for joining us in exploring Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. May you experience the miracle of nourishment, love, and fellowship in your life and around your table!
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.