Animal Dreams

By Barbara Kingsolver

66,786 ratings - 4.04* vote

"Animals dream about the things they do in the day time just like people do. If you want sweet dreams, you've got to live a sweet life." So says Loyd Peregrina, a handsome Apache trainman and latter-day philosopher. But when Codi Noline returns to her hometown, Loyd's advice is painfully out of her reach. Dreamless and at the end of her rope, Codi comes back to Grace, Ariz "Animals dream about the things they do in the day time just like people do. If you want sweet

... more

Book details

Paperback, 342 pages
1991 by Harper Perennial

(first published September 1st 1990)

Original Title
Animal Dreams
0060921145 (ISBN13: 9780060921149)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


In a letter to Codi, Hallie writes, "'What keeps you going isn't some fine destination but just the road you're on, and the fact that you know how to drive.'" This is not a love story as the back of the book may have you believe. Sure, people fall in and out of love within its pages, but this book is really about understanding oneself amid a lifetime of memories and secrets...the risks we take not only when we cheat ourselves, but when we find ourselves, too. I read this for the first time two years ago to the month, needing it for the same reasons even though I've changed a lot, and this time got even a little more from it (which is why we should all read our favorite books multiple times!). I'm not going into a deeply personal reflection here in a public forum, but I think this is a loving book for people who've got some reckoning to do, spanning the greater good of the social and physical world to the individual soul.


This is only the second book that I've read by Barbara Kingsolver, and I'm very interested in learning about her writing process. She has this infectious, cultural curiosity that drives her to learn anything and everything about a place and its people...even if they only exist in her mind. She creates an entire world of history, geography, lineage and folklore.

And every character is filled with so much wisdom and humor that I feel like I was given a sneak peak into Kingsolver's personality. Even when her characters are making their mistakes, they are learning and changing. It's as if Kingsolver is teaching a lesson she learned at the same moment she wrote it.

She also has this way of juxtaposing the fiction with real life events. In Animal Dreams, Hallie, a daughter of a tiny canyon village in Arizona keeps her sister, Codi, connected to the war in Nicaragua. Hallie spreads truth and hope with her letters...two subjects that aren't too prominent in Codi's life.

Doc Opp

I was a bit disturbed that I could appreciate this book. While I have liked a lot of Kingsolver's other work, this particular book is centered around the sort of seriously damaged character that usually turns me off to a book. And had I read this in high school, or college, or maybe even grad school, I'm fairly certain I would have disliked it tremendously.

And yet... having read it when I did, I was able to identify with some elements of the what the character was experiencing, even if I didn't approve of her methods with dealing with those issues. And that made the book meaningful to me.

Maybe that's a sign that I'm becoming mature. Let's hope not...

Anyway, the book dances around a lot of issues - touching on corporate malfeasance in environmental impact, the atrocities funded by the U.S. government that the U.S. public does its best to ignore, teenage pregnancy, Alzheimer's disease, the nature of love and friendship, barriers to happiness, and finding meaning in life. Quite a lot of large things for such a small book. And because of that, the book doesn't focus on any one topic enough to really deal with it successfully. It whets your appetite and then goes skimming elsewhere. I would probably have found that annoying, but for the fact that Kingsolver's writing is so fluid that the trip itself is enjoyable, even if you don't end up anywhere. Which mirrors the central message of the book, to the extent that there is one.

Overall, I'm glad I read the book. And while its not the sort of book I'm likely to recommend to anybody, its also not the sort of book I'm likely to steer people away from either.


I stayed up late tonight finishing this book. I just bought the book 2 days ago at a used bookstore. This was an uncharacteristically fast read for me. I read like I eat - slowly and often distracted. I've been sobbing (not crying, SOBBING) through the last half of the book. I'm just getting over a nasty cold and it definitely wasn't pretty.

Kingsolver writing is so earthy, playful and gorgeous at the same time. She weaves in these metaphors about globalism and environmentalism (in the most non-preachy way) and they blend into the story in such an organic, unpretentious way.

I loved all of the characters so much - especially the main one. I felt sad that the book was over and I wouldn't know what happened afterward to all of these sweet characters. I can't remember the last time I felt like that about a novel.

I want to read another one of her books right away, but I feel like I should space them out so I can savor them. I adored Poisonwood Bible. And I adore this one just as much.


Let's say you are a completely unlikable medical-school-dropout who's had a somewhat unpleasant but not exactly trauma-worthy childhood who has returned to your hometown to teach biology to a group of poverty-stricken high schoolers while watching over your dad who is slowly sinking into dementia. That would essentially be the perfect time for hanging out at your best-friend-from-high-school's house all day, enjoying the company of her droll children, flirting with your inexplicably devoted Native American boyfriend, saving the town from an evil mining company by spear-heading a pinata-selling fundraiser, writing letters to your twin sister who's campaigning for a better life for the farmers in Central America, and also giving the occasional lecture about birth control to your high schoolers who nominate you for teaching awards and save you from being fired, all while kind of failing to do any actual caring for your father because it turns out the whole town is really hopelessy devoted to him and will do it all for you? Right? Right.

Meghan Pinson

My memory, like Codi's, is for shit. I have very few memories -- from childhood through this week -- that aren't factually suspect, and thus justifiably subject to correction by others. This is either sad or liberating, depending on my mood and motivation, and provides both impetus for and against the writing down of Real Life. Sometimes the only proof I want is the emotional residue. But sometimes that, too, is inaccurate -- like the blinding "pop" in Codi's recurring dream, even the subconscious can get flipped around and rewritten.

Codi's memory has a terrible price when she finally gets hold of it. But then again, she gets to keep Loyd. That should be enough for any girl -- some of us would be wise to choose him over epiphany any day, especially if we're as callous and distant as Codi is throughout most of the novel. It's probably silly to say that the moral of a story is that sometimes life chooses you, since fictional characters are by nature figments of imagination, and get to enjoy the plotting out and tidying up that their authors are wont to do for them. But maybe belief in fiction is an extension of belief in an interventionist God.

Maybe the reason this book left me sobbing and shaken is that it gives the right answer. Isn't that why we read novels -- in the hopes that someone else's imagined life will provide the answers for our own questions? We take books like medicine. But like medicine, it's still practice ... no one's promising that this time, this cure will work for me, or for you. We can only keep trying for that perfect, elusive match of cure to symptom.

lucky little cat

It's been nearly thirty years since I've read this, and it's amazing which details linger.

Their old shoes were in the attic, arranged neatly by size in a row. As if they'd ever need them again.

Dana D.

This is my favorite Kingsolver novel, and I've re-read it several times, not because it's the best "literature" but because I loved several the characters and some of the imagery... I even named my cat after the main character's sister. Sort of. Anyway, it's readable in a day or two; it's a little preachy and the plot is contrived, but of great sentimental value to me. And the scene of Cody's aging father developing black and white photographs meant to resemble completely unrelated objects really affected me.


Picked this one up for next to nothing at a garage sale in September along with Sol Yurik's "The Warriors" and S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders".

The pretty woman in her early 40's refused to sell it to me, instead wanting me to take it for free. I insisted and gave her a buck for all three. She lives in a tiny little pink and turquoise casita around the corner and up the street from my flat which I have always lovingly admired. Now having read the book I feel like there was some sort of "Never Ending Story" type connection between her and the protagonist. Something in how she came across like an ex-high school teacher, pretty but exhausted, well educated but broke and especially with the combo of these three particular books strewn on a Mexican blanket in her front yard. What can I takes one to know one.


Having read several of Kingsolver's other books I was looking forward to hearing her voice again. I couldn't say it any better than another Good Reads reviewer who says she, "has this infectious, cultural curiosity that drives her to learn anything and everything about a place and its people...even if they only exist in her mind. She creates an entire world of history, geography, lineage and folklore."


And this is why I love Kingsolver. I always come out knowing a place, wanting to walk it's streets or interact with the people she creates. It's just really whole and healthy fiction. It's simple I guess, a good dose of some Kingsolver between some other heavy genre like crime, noir or sci-fi always brings me back to being human.

Cause' in the end, that's all I can really be.


Barbara Kingsolver has a gift that allows the reader to identify with the land that she is writing about. This story is as much about the main character, Cosima Noline, as it is about her hometown Gracela Canyon, where she grew up and moves back to as a thirty-something. As with Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible, this story has the characters reflect on their place in the world as individuals as well as in their family, community and workplace. The writing is moving and beautiful. And although I read this is just a couple of days, the story will most likely stay with me for a while.