In the midst of a bitter winter, I revel in the warmth of Barbara Kingsolver's new collection of essays, High Tide in Tucson: Essays From Now or Never. It's the kind of read where I find myself erupting into fits of laughter, right there in bed next to my comatose spouse who mutters, "It must have been really good, hummmm." And it is.
Perhaps it's the quirky title and the hermit crab that inspired it. Perhaps it's the line, "In a place such as my hometown, you file in and sit down to day one of kindergarten with the exact pool of boys who will be your potential dates for the prom." Or, most likely, and more importantly, it's the fine thinking and careful writing that makes this collection a winner.
Taken together and in order, as Kingsolver would have us do, the 25 self-contained essays articulate a strong case for living life in a state of hopefulness. In her title essay, "High Tide in Tucson," Kingsolver argues, "To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another-that is surely the basic instinct....If the whole world of the living has to turn on the single point of remaining alive, that pointed endurance is the poetry of hope."
The essayist weaves a thread of hope through the background of each essay, adding texture with her trademark wry, loopy humor. Readers of Kingsolver's acclaimed fiction (The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams) are well-rewarded by their attention to Kingsolver's meditations on nature, family and community, and the writer's art, among others. She addresses a host of social, environmental, and political issues through personal anecdotes.