Barbara Kingsolver’s 8th novel, Flight Behavior, is my 1st. Somehow, I have avoided reading her. Why am I reading her now? Isn’t it obvious? It’s an ARC, from HarperCollins. They presented us bloggers with very few choices due to the holiday season. In fact, this was the only fiction option (and you all know that non-fiction is not my preferred reading). So what did I think? I have to say that I really liked it. She is an excellent writer – one of those authors that borders on writing “literature” (like Pat Conroy or Ken Follett). Despite that(!), it was definitely readable for the likes of someone like me.
The story takes place in a small town in the Appalachians. As you might guess, the family at the center of the story comes across as a bit backwoods. Dellarobia Turnbow, age 29, is a stay-at-home mother of a 6-year old boy and a 1½-year old girl. She and her husband, Cub, got married because she got pregnant (they lost that baby). Cub occasionally works, and his parents, Bear and Hester, control everything that Dellarobia and Cub do. It’s a pretty unsatisfying life for Dellarobia.
And then one day, when Dellarobia climbs the nearby mountain on her way to a tryst, she comes across what looks like a miracle. There are large brown clumps in the trees and a fiery orange flame (I guess all flames are orange) in the distance. Because she has left her glasses at home (I guess you can’t bring glasses to a tryst), she doesn’t realize that what she’s looking at is a colony of monarch butterflies. Thus starts a rebirth for Dellarobia. She becomes an instant celebrity in town and, subsequently, well-known nationally. What follows is all about how her life changes. That’s all I’m going to tell you about the story line.
This book would be great for book clubs. It has a ton of elements in it: Nature, science, relationships and all of their sub-plots. It has humor, in the form of Dellarobia’s best friend, Dovey (I don’t make these names up). And it’s got what appears to be accurate information about the possible extinction of a species. In fact, the only small complaint I have is that it’s a little bit too technical at times (fortunately, it’s not Tom Clancy, whose Sum of All Fears left me pining for a romance novel with Fabio on the cover!). But this does not diminish the quality or enjoyment of the book.
I want to give you 1 example of Kingsolver’s clever writing. She was talking about how 1 of their dogs urinated in different parts of the pasture to mark his territory. She said it was the dog’s version of post-it notes. That’s good stuff.
Flight Behavior is definitely a book I would recommend. Although the protagonist is a woman, I don’t think the book is geared to women. As a man (okay, not the most macho of men), the book definitely appealed to me. Unless you just want books that are shoot-em-ups (i.e. CIA, special forces, police, etc.), this is one you should enjoy.
PERSONAL NOTE: There is a very important revelation late in the book that I actually figured out before it was revealed. This is big news. I haven’t figured out a significant plot point in a book since I was 10 years old (I think it was 1 of the Dr. Doolittle books). But I have to say, first, that I figured it out only a ½ page before it was disclosed. And, second, anybody else would have gotten it a lot sooner than I did!