Penn State

Darcy L. Medica - associate professor of biology, Penn State Schuylkill

Book Title: Prodigal Summer

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Book Description:

During the 2000-2001 academic year, I was writing my PhD dissertation at Rutgers while working full time at Temple University (over an hour away). I was living at my parents' house in New Jersey with my two-year-old son while my husband was working in Buffalo, New York. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time driving! I found that listening to books on tape helped the time to pass more quickly. I borrowed this book from my mother, and listened to it during one of my nine-hour drives to Buffalo. I listened to the story many times after that, so often that I wore out some of the cassettes. This was a very difficult time for me, and I was easily distracted from my PhD research and from writing my dissertation, but some of the ideas contained within the story helped me to re-focus.

This book is based the lives of three women who are working towards their own separate goals, and are each living in a way that brings them closer to nature. One of these women is a wildlife biologist who has removed herself from society to tend a region of the Appalachian trail and to study a group of coyotes that has come to live in the same area. While I cannot envision myself living completely alone in the woods, I appreciated her dedication to her way of life, and the way in which she studied these animals. It reminded me to take a step back, re-evaluate, and determine what was important in terms of obtaining my goals.

I related in some way to each of the women in this book, in the way that they tried to live in harmony with nature, and in the final themes of family and human interactions, which especially resonated with me. I have had a tremendous amount of support from my family, during graduate school and also since I began working at Penn State. The abilities to take a step back and re-evaluate, as well as learning to lean on others, when needed, are the things that have helped me to find satisfaction in my research and teaching, despite the demands of family responsibilities, and whatever else life has thrown at me.


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