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Flight Behavior: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, June 4, 2013
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: In what may be the first novel to realistically imagine the near-term impact of “global weirding,” Barbara Kingsolver sets her latest story in rural Appalachia . In fictional Feathertown, Tennessee, Dellarobia Turnbow--on the run from her stifling life--charges up the mountain above her husband’s family farm and stumbles onto a “valley of fire” filled with millions of monarch butterflies. This vision is deemed miraculous by the town’s parishioners, then the international media. But when Ovid, a scientist who studies monarch behavior, sets up a lab on the Turnbow farm, he learns that the butterflies’ presence signals systemic disorder--and Dellarobia's in-laws’ logging plans won’t help. Readers who bristle at politics made personal may be turned off by the strength of Kingsolver’s convictions, but she never reduces her characters to mouthpieces, giving equal weight to climate science and human need, to forces both biological and biblical. Her concept of family encompasses all living beings, however ephemeral, and Flight Behavior gracefully, urgently contributes to the dialogue of survival on this swiftly tilting planet. --Mari Malcolm --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Drawing on both her Appalachian roots and her background in biology, Kingsolver delivers a passionate novel on the effects of global warming.” (Booklist, Starred Review)
“With her powerful new novel, Kingsolver delivers literary fiction that conveys an urgent social message… a clarion call about climate change, too lucid and vivid for even skeptics to ignore.” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)
“…Enthralling…Dellarobia is appealingly complex as a smart, curious, warmhearted woman desperate to-no resisting the metaphor here-trade her cocoon for wings.” (Oprah.com)
“A dazzling page-turner” (Elle)
“Kingsolver has written one of the more thoughtful novels about the scientific, financial and psychological intricacies of climate change. And her ability to put these silent, breathtakingly beautiful butterflies at the center of this calamitous and noisy debate is nothing short of brilliant.” (Ron Charles, Washington Post)
“Dellarobia is a smart, fierce, messy woman, and one can’t help rooting for her to find her wings.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“Dellarobia is appealingly complex as a smart, curious, warmhearted woman desperate to-no resisting the metaphor here-trade her cocoon for wings.” (O, the Oprah Magazine)
“One of the gifts of a Kingsolver novel is the resplendence of her prose. She takes palpable pleasure in the craft of writing, creating images that stay with the reader long after her story is done…(a) majestic and brave new novel.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Kingsolver has constructed a deeply affecting microcosm of a phenomenon that is manifesting in many different tragic ways, in communities and ecosystems all around the globe. This is a fine and complex novel.” (Seattle Times)
“So captivating is this grand, suspenseful plot and the many subplots rising and falling beneath it that it takes some time before we realize what this story is really about -- climate change.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Spirituality, a troubled marriage, global warming…Kingsolver’s latest is a bold mélange, but it works.” (People)
“Kingsolver is a storyteller first and foremost, as sensitive to human interactions and family dynamics as she is to ecological ones.” (NPR)
“a delicate symbiosis between the sacred and the scientific in this richly rewarding novel that will both entertain and incite its readers.” (BookPage)
“FLIGHT BEHAVIOR is a book worth reading twice? first for the intricacies of character, second for the dense, beautiful language Kingsolver puts on the page. She’s a keen observer of the messiness and unexpected beauty of the quotidian.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“By the end of FLIGHT BEHAVIOR, it’s clear that Kingsolver’s passionate voice and her ability to portray the fragility of the natural world, and why we should care about it, are as strong as ever.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Novelists like Kingsolver have a particular knack for making us empathize with lives that may bear little resemblance to our own…What lifts FLIGHT BEHAVIOR…is not just Kingsolver’s nuanced and funny prose; it’s Dellarobia’s awakening to the possibilities around her.” (Julia Ingalls, Salon)
“FLIGHT BEHAVIOR is a terrifically entertaining read about a spirited young woman you’ll miss the minute you reach the last page.” (USA Today)
“Marvelous…This is fiction rich in empathy, wit and science. Like the butterflies that astonish Feathertown, Kingsolvian gifts are ‘fierce and wondrous,’ ‘colors moving around like fire.’” (New York Times)
“[Kingsolver’s] keen grasp of delicate ecosystems-both social and natural-keeps the story convincing and compelling.” (The New Yorker)
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In this story, the survival techniques of the Monarch butterfly, those bright orange, delicate but hardy creatures, and that of a diminutive, flame-haired young woman are inextricably intertwined and analogous. The Monarchs have had an atypical flight behavior this year. Floods and landslides led to felled trees everywhere in their usual roosting place in Mexico. Subsequently, they migrated to Feathertown to overwinter. Why Feathertown? That's the big question that one team of scientists comes to examine. However, they are challenged by the residents, who are skeptical of science-based answers to climate-based questions. In the meantime, residents of Feathertown need to fill their coffers.
Dellarobia Turnbow, 27, has her own kind of flight behaviors, spurred on by too much domestic confinement too soon, and now she is primed to flee, restive--flying from pillar to post, as her mother always said. Unlike the rest of the townspeople, she wasn't as inspired by religion.
"She was a...911 Christian: in the event of an emergency, call the Lord...Jesus was a more reliable backer, less likely to drink himself unconscious or get liver cancer. No wonder people chose Him as their number one friend. But if the chemistry wasn't there, what could you do?"
Married in a shotgun wedding ten years ago, she lost a preemie before having two more children. Her husband, Cub, is a large, docile and complacent man, controlled and essentially managed by his mirthless parents. Dellarobia knows that to live in this town is to be under a microscope; she was the untamed child once, and that wildness is rearing its head again, her dormancy coming to an end.
The first chapter, "The Measure of a Man," is the catalyst for both Dellarobia's evolution and the arc of the story. (If you want to experience it fresh and unspoiled, avoid reading the jacket blurb.) Kingsolver's time-honored talent for yoking the struggle and turmoil of man with the flux and beauty of nature is vividly drawn. She builds the final, dramatic scene of the chapter to a man/nature composition that is at once distilled and dynamic, serene and dramatic. Abundant, also, are Biblical allusions that reflect the community's ethos.
Kingsolver is an agent of social change. She established the Bellwether prize in literature in order to award writers who effect change for the good of humanity. She is also a scholar with postgrad degrees in biology and environmental science. You are going to encounter a stout measure of activism in her writing, covering such issues as the degradation of the planet and its natural resources and the contentious class system of society. If her political evocations have bothered you in the past, they are likely to bother you here, too.
Nevertheless, the author weaves in her social issues with finesse, for the most part, and her vivid portrait of Feathertown is sympathetic and informed. Initially, she seems to lampoon the pious, science-fearing populace, but she gradually tenders the reader to an understanding of the religious community. She slowly develops dialogue between urban, rural, and academic minds and concerns. The biblical allusions are also ripe and fitting, relevant to the inhabitants of Feathertown and the way they see the "miracle" of nature. Dellarobia represents a connection between both worlds.
This is the second book I have read that highlights the migratory patterns and survival modes of the Monarch butterfly, and braids in the journey of self-actualization and coming to terms with loss. SANCTUARY LINE, by Jane Urquhart, is also socially and environmentally conscious, and is an apt companion piece to this book.
The clash of family, science, religion, media, politics, and environment takes Dellarobia on a quest beyond the emotional and intellectual borders she has known all her life, on a journey of discovery and transformation. Like a butterfly out of the chrysalis, she must follow the path of her future.
The character of DellaRobbia, the protagonist, seems achingly real to me-- a bright, intellectually curious, but poor woman caught in a trap of a loveless marriage at too young an age.Yet she struggles with her passions and desires for adventure, and pits them against love for her children and a desire to be a caring wife. Her internal turmoil created by the arrival of the exotic, handsome scientist who comes to study the aberrant butterfly migration on her property, and the intellectual and sexual desires that are created through her contact with him and with her burgeoning knowledge of the world of environmental science seems quite real. Through it all, her social and cultural environment of small town life and the economic (and intellectual) poverty is well documented. Against the bigotry, resentment, and anti-intellectualism of the rural Southerner, Kingsolver juxtaposes the prejudices and class snobbery of the well--educated environmental activist elites. In the end, Kingsolver gives DellaRobbia a pathway in which she can escape from her caged existence, but she leaves us with the question on how to bridge the divide between climate deniers and environmental activists still unresolved.
There is a lot about Monarch butterflies, much I'd never even considered. That was interesting. The author does get a bit "preachy" about the environment and global warming, some of which was germane to the story, but probably more was in the book than necessary to make the point. There are side threads about Dovey and Hester, and a little gotcha there in the story. I think you will enjoy the book.
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That being said, the book came damaged and sliced on the backside halfway throiugh the pages...Read more