Friday, November 23, 2012

Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver

I've been a fan of Kingsolver for a while and I looked forward to another fiction story from her.

This is the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a country girl, married in haste, sharing property in the Appalachian mountains with her in-laws, consumed with caring for her two children and unsatisfied with life.  While escaping to a potential trist, she witnesses millions of monarch butterflies that have landed in the forest above her home.  The discovery makes her a local celebrity and provides the backdrop for a lesson in climate change.

It takes the first few chapters to figure out what she's seen and her initial interpretation of it as "flames" just didn't make sense to me.  I was annoyed too in the first third of the book with how Kingsolver described the daily life of Dellarobia.  It didn't feel authentic.  Maybe that's my own inclination to romanticize instead of seeing things for what they are.  The character is painted as a simpleton in the beginning, with no "edge" of modern day which was a disconnect for me.  The story moves on to use the migration of the butterflies as a lesson in the impact of global warming and climate change.  A clumsy transition I felt.  A better story is the relationship between Dellarobia and her mother-in-law, husband and girlfriend.  The ending ties up things too neatly and quickly.

The writing is very descriptive and evokes the scenes in detail, making the reader feel they are standing in Dellarobia's kitchen or the makeshift laboratory observing the characters' interactions.  I tired of the preaching and felt Kingsolver's voice as an outsider to the part of the country and the people she portrays.

Published:  2012  Read: November 2012   Genre: Fiction

1 comment:

  1. This quote near the end when Dellarobia realizes what she's going to do is a good example of how well Kingsolver writes:
    "Dellarobia watched as Cub meticulously cleaned his plate, avoiding eye contact, not out of step with the present company but staring through it. If he'd said one word this whole evening she could not remember it. ...he was just brooding, as he had been all day. It was so public and implicating, his sulk, like a forehead bruise on one of the kids that customarily made her blurt explanation to casual strangers at the grocery. Yet here she sat, detached, as if this gigantic miserable husband were not her fault. Just being the fools we are right now, she thought: a condition that inevitably changed, often for the worse. In one transcendent moment ...she saw the pointlessness of clinging to that life raft, that hooray-we-are-saved conviction of having already come through the stupid parts, to arrive at the current enlightenment. The hard part is letting go, she could see that. There is no life raft; you're just freaking swimming all the time.


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