High Tide In Tucson

by Barbara Kingsolver

©1995, HarperCollins Publishers, New York

This remarkable collection of essays is written in my favorite genre: creative nonfiction. As a Dangerous Housewife, how could I fail to love Kingsolver's comment about housework:

Her use of the English language is liquid poetry, yet this is not verse. Her travelogues from exotic locales (backpacking inside a volcano in Hawaii; visiting a voodoo festival in Benin; searching for Guanches in the Canary Islands) are not descriptions of wonders she has seen; rather, they are sensual experiences she has lived.

Ms. Kingsolver is a true child advocate and advocate of childhood. (Hillary Clinton would have benefited greatly had she read this book before writing her own.) The fierce devotion to her small daughter reflects a tenderness and love so intense, that G-d help the evildoer who believes he can mess with it.

Her observations on a writer's life are right on the money, although her kvetching about whirlwind tours on the book promotion circuit left me exclaiming, "Gosh, how perfectly horrid! . . . Can I take your place? Please? Oh, pretty please?"

Politically, Ms. Kingsolver and the Dangerous Housewife are about as similar as repelling magnets. Why does she seem more appalled by eroding ecosystems caused by careless recreation and industry in a Kentucky creek than by hideous tales (some witnessed) of human and animal cruelty in West Africa? Why, when discussing the horrific effects of the atomic bomb as displayed in a museum in Hiroshima, does she ignore the unspeakable evil and uncontrolled cruelty of the Japanese and Germans against those who happened to be of the "wrong" race or religion (and which was an undeniable factor that led to the dropping of the atomic bomb and the end of the war?)

Well, I may be a political conservative, but humanity is a wondrous and varied thing. Humility allows that I don't have to share an agenda with my fellow (wo)man as a requirement to listen, learn, and be enriched. Ms. Kingsolver has resurrected writing as an art form, in an age of sensationalist non-fiction and formula fiction.

High Tide In Tucson is a book to be savored slowly and repeatedly. Also high on my list is her work of fiction, Pigs In Heaven (and the irony of someone such as myself, an Orthodox Jew, recommending a book with a title like Pigs In Heaven has not been lost on me!).

- Galia Berry

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