Title: Flight Behavior
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Publisher: Harper Collins (Harper Perennial for 2013 reprint)
Publication Date: November 6, 2012 (reprinted June 3, 2013)
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
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. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.
I was immediately attracted to this book tour, because Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is on my all-time-favorites book list. I haven't had the chance to read anything else of hers since then, but the description of Flight Behavior is an eye-catcher. Is it about climate change? Family turmoil? Rural life? There's so much going on, I had to figure out what the angle was here.
The short answer to the above questions is that Flight Behavior is about all of those things...together. And rather fluidly, I might add, which is not the easiest thing for an author to do. I mean, how do you have a meaningful, non-polarizing conversation about climate change, in a fiction novel, while still developing a complex cast of characters with a story that interests your readers? It sounds like a weird mash-up, but here, it works.
Dellarobia is a fascinating character. At times, I felt like I could identify with aspects of her personality, while at others, I felt like she was opening up a whole new world to me. Her development during the book drives so much of your understanding of the plot as it moves along. For example, it was through Dellarobia that many of the conversations about climate change took place. I especially loved the encounter she had with an activist on her property who was trying to get the locals to sign a pledge, requiring them to do certain things to help the environment: buy CFL bulbs, use Craigslist to buy used items, fly in airplanes less. Things that sound totally sane and do-able to many, but to Dellarobia (who can't afford $5 Christmas presents for her kids, doesn't own a computer, and has never traveled in her life) are impossible or pointless.
I'll be the first to admit that I am a huge advocate of doing things like this to reduce climate change, but Dellarobia's perspective opened up a completely different view on the subject. A whole host of issues (especially for those in rural/impoverished areas) that I had never considered. No matter what your feelings about Al Gore, it will be impossible to read Flight Behavior and not see your views on climate change in an entirely new way. This book, though fictional, enriches the discussion on that subject without being politically isolating at all.
Overall, this is a fantastic novel with loads to say. Your brain will feel heavier after reading (that's a good thing!). It started out a bit slowly ("Where are we going with this?") but about a third of the way through, I was hooked and didn't stop until the end. This is a great book if you're ready for a thinker!
Much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
HERE. And connect with Barbara Kingsolver on her website and Facebook page.