Book Review: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
November 21, 2012 30 Comments
I’m a fan of Barbara Kingsolver. I think I’ve read more or less all of her novels. Most people rave about The Poisonwood Bible but my favorite is Prodigal Summer and I also love the books with Taylor and Turtle: The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven.
Flight Behavior is, like Prodigal Summer, a story about a woman on a farm, not feeling at home with her in-laws and about nature and the environment. I expected to enjoy this, and I indeed did.
Flight Behavior: What it is about
From the publishers: “Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire.
She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.
Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change.”
Flight Behavior: What I thought
What I didn’t like: Dellarobia’s name. My apologies to all Dellarobia’s in the world, what a name. I think the name stopped me from becoming completely attached to the main character which otherwise I might have done. On the other hand, not just her name, but also her life was very different from mine.
There were many things to like about the book, though. For instance, Dellarobia was cheated out of college because of falling pregnant at 17. However, during the novel, it becomes clear she’s pretty clever and it was wonderful to see how she starts to believe in herself as the story progresses. Her attraction to Ovid, the African-American researcher, was very well explored. It was interesting that in this predominantly white population, Ovid was exotic more because of his academic title per sé than his skin color or the conjunction of the two.
I enjoyed learning more about global warming. Kingsolver’s “miracle” was fictitious but a well-researched and easy to follow possible effect of global warming. I liked how this was explained. For instance, the”miracle” happening was comparable to waking up one morning and finding your eye had moved to the side of your head. That hits home!
The best part is when Dellarobia is asked about her carbon footprint and how to reduce it. Now, remember she’s living a poor life. This example makes it so clear how different Dellarobia’s life and environment is compared to that of the people who think up these kinds of policies.
“Number One. Bring your own Tupperware to a restaurant for leftovers, as often as possible.”
[Dellarobia] “I have not eaten in a restaurant for over two years.”
“Okay,” he said. “Try to reduce the intake of red meat in your diet.”
[Dellarobia] “Are you crazy? I’m trying to increase our intake of red meat.”
While the reader was, at the same time as Dellarobia, educated about reducing their carbon footprint, it never felt (here nor elsewhere in the book) that the information was forced on the reader.
Very nicely written, with lots of beautiful descriptions. The novel is very rich in terms of location and history. The characters are firmly anchored in time and place and it felt as if Kingsolver has simply allowed us a look at Dellarobia’s life and town for the duration of the book.
Extra: Other books I’ve read by Barbara Kingsolver are: The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, and The Lacuna.