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Customer Review

252 of 268 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What was the use of saving a world that had no soul...?", November 6, 2012
This review is from: Flight Behavior: A Novel (Hardcover)
Barbara Kingsolver is one of those rare writers with whom you know what you are getting before you open the first page.

You know, for example, that the prose is going to be literary, dense, and luscious (take this descriptive line: Summer's heat had never really arrived, nor the cold in turn, and everything living now seemed to yearn for sun with the anguish of the unloved.") You know that the content will focus on some kind of social justice, biodiversity, or environmental issue. You know, too, that at some point, Ms. Kingsolver will cross the line into authorial intrusion based on her passion for the subject she is writing on.

But you keep coming back for more. At least, I do. There is something mesmerizing about a Barbara Kingsolver novel, and something refreshing about a writer who combines a solid scientific background with stunning prose.

This book is entitled Flight Behavior, and for good reason. It opens with a young Appalachian woman - Dellarobia Turnbow - ready to take flight from her shotgun marriage and closed-in life with two young children. On her way up the mountain to engage in an affair, she views an astounding natural phenomenon that changes everything for her.

The core of the novel focuses on that phenomenon,centering on the migratory patterns of the bright orange Monarch butterfly, usually viewed only in Mexico. The topic is climate change and Ms. Kingsolver slashes through the obtuse definitions with language anyone can understand. Dellarobia is paired thematically with a Harvard-educated scientist Ovid Byron, whose lifework is studying the butterflies. He says, "If you woke up one morning, Dellarobia, and one of your eyes had moved to the side of your head, how would you feel about that?" That, in effect, is the same as the butterflies migrating to Appalachia.

There is much to love about this novel. Dellarobia is authentically portrayed: a woman who is confined in a life she has outgrown, complete with two very genuinely created toddlers and a best friend who is not similarly constrained. The duality of science and religion is also tackled. While Barbara Kingsolver makes no secret of how she feels about those who piously say, "Weather is the Lord's business" while polluting our environment, she also concedes to the majesty and mystery of nature, culling in parallels from Job and Noah.

Ultimately, Ms. Kingsolver leaves us with the most important question of all: "what was the use of saving a world that had no soul left in it. Continents without butterflies, seas without coral reef...What if all human effort amounted basically to saving a place for ourselves to park?" The interconnectedness of all nature's creatures - and our true place in our own lives and in the lives of the universe - is a message that lives on in this reader's mind long after the last page is closed.
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Showing 1-10 of 41 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 6, 2012 5:55:53 AM PST
Mary Lins says:
Great review as usual, Jill! How did you get this so quickly? Mine just got shipped out today!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2012 6:15:10 AM PST
Hi Mary -- I'm a huge Kingsolver fan so I actually emailed the publicist and asked if I could get an advance copy. And amazingly, she said "yes" -- right away. I was thrilled to get it early.

Posted on Nov 6, 2012 6:58:03 AM PST
Lovely review Jill. As you know, I stopped reading the book at page 80. I used to love Kingsolver but her political rhetoric and social consciousness has taken forefront to her literary goals. This is my opinion which, it is obvious, is not shared by everyone. Bonnie

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2012 7:02:27 AM PST
Bonnie, I hear you! Kingsolver definitely has an agenda when she writes. I still believe her prose is luscious. And, in this book, I learned much more than I ever expected to about climate change and its ramifications. It's rare for me to give a "pass" to authorial intrusion but in this case, I can't help but do so.

Posted on Nov 6, 2012 8:33:35 AM PST
Lovely review, Jill. Bug's made me move this book from my wish list to my shopping cart; yours has made me press the "proceed to check-out" button. Thanks to you two, I have yet another book coming my way! Thank you for that! I love Barbara Kingsolver and I am so excited that, as you suggest, "there is much to love about this novel." Oh, goodie! Evie

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2012 8:44:07 AM PST
Mary Lins says:
Genius! Good for you and good for them to do that! I should have done something similar with the latest Ken Follett book - I could have pointed out that my review of the last one got 3000+ hits :-)

Keep reviewing, girlfriend!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2012 8:48:50 AM PST
Evie, I really look forward to your own review on Flight Behavior when you receive it. I have, of course, been similarly influenced by you. I still think of The Lizard Cage and how much I loved it.

Mary, you should ABSOLUTELY do it. All they can say is "no." I was very surprised to get a "yes" within less than an hour of my request. Very grateful to the publisher!

Posted on Nov 8, 2012 2:53:15 AM PST
Jill, a very enticing review for me. Meeting my enjoyment for the topics in the framework for a lusciously written novel. Definitively a book to get. I tried to win it on GR but no luck. Friederike

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2012 6:10:35 AM PST
Friederike, my best guess is that this IS a book for you. I was on a roll with GR, but haven't won anything there for a while!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2012 6:13:41 AM PST
Same here.. I try in waves but no luck. Amazon.ca has reduced the price so I might spring for it. F
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Review Details

Item

Reviewer

Jill I. Shtulman
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   

Location: Chicago, IL USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 384