Barbara Kingsolver: ‘It feels as though we’re living through the end of the world’

The author of The Poisonwood Bible is back with an ambitious novel charting the US in breakdown. She talks about the environment, victim-blaming – and being a hillbilly

Visiting Barbara Kingsolver on her farm in Appalachia feels like entering some form of enchanted bower. As we drive through the nearby town of Abingdon, Virginia, she identifies some brightly painted wooden houses; the tavern built in 1779; the Barter theatre that’s been running since the great depression, when actors performed in exchange for food, trading “ham for Hamlet”. Then there’s her big, cosy farmhouse with its heavy wooden beams, Bartók and Satie sheet music on the piano (she went to college on a music scholarship and has played in various bands), and her border collie Hugo following her around as she quizzes me in unusual detail on how I like my coffee. “I’m southern,” she jokes. “I want to make ...