This book is the combination of Kingsolver's two distinct writing styles, one found in her earlier novels (The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven), and the other found in The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible. People may say that Kingsolver has "matured", but I prefer to think that this is "change", not "growth."
Her earlier novels were quirky, cute, lighthearted. They contained lovable characters, intriguing plot lines, touching upon the Big questions and heavy issues. Kingsolver's early characters were fabulous, genius, even. The extreme imagery was there from the start, the skill with language. These weren't heavy-duty books, but they were fantastic.
Her latest novels seem to have become more serious. The characters are still great, albeit not as radiant as the Taylor Greers and Codi Nolines. The issues tackled are larger, more heavy-duty, and they are truly tackled, not just touched upon. These books tend to impact, but aren't as vibrant, as amateurish, you could say, as the earlier novels. Kingsolver's voice is still very, very nice, the imagery is still great, maybe even better than before. But her writing's lost the quirk. I still like it, but, well, it's not the same. Also, these books are a lot longer, and a lot larger. They're sort of daunting.
And Prodigal Summer lands right in the middle. Alongside Animal Dreams, maybe. Written in the transition between these two "styles." The cuteness is still very present, especially in Garnett and Lusa's stories. Garnett and Lusa, as well as Nannie and Rick are all extremely lovable. Deanna's story has the serious tone of the later novels, as well as the big issues. Kingsolver expels her biology knowledge fully, while creating some extremely readable stories.
This balance makes Prodigal Summer in my opinion Kingsolver's most readable book. It's not my favorite, but it probably appeals to more people than most of her other books. It's strange that this is one of her lesser-known novels. Perhaps there is just too much sex involved.
Like seriously, almost every chapter had a sex scene, though generally between wild animals. Kingsolver treats sex as a natural process, an everyday occurrence, a necessity, which it is! I mean, after reading this book, sex seems so commonplace that the more cynical of people may find it desensitizing. I don't. I'm just glad that now, all of those YA Fic sex fiascos seem insignificant.