Product Added : February 24th, 2013
Category : Books
"This Best Selling Flight Behavior: A Novel Tends to SELL OUT VERY FAST! If this is a MUST HAVE product, be sure to Order Now to avoid disappointment!"
Flight Behavior transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman's narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel's inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.
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.
When I first heard the title to Barbara Kingsolver’s seventh novel, I thought of airplanes. Such is the orientation of the 21st century. Well, prepare to step into the rural, economically depressed farming and sheepherding town of Feathertown, Tennessee, where the shepherds flock on Sundays to commune with Pastor Bobby Ogle, their beloved and kind preacher and spiritual leader. This is the kind of repressed, technologically challenged community who believes that weather is determined by God, not by science, and that the past year’s flooding was decreed by the heavens and can only be reversed by prayer.
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.
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.
Flight Behaviour is the 5th stand-alone novel by Barbara Kingsolver. In the Appalachian Mountains above her home, eastern Tennessee farm wife and mother of two, Dellarobia Turnbow is about to take a step that will change her unsatisfactory life forever when she is arrested by a vision of something she has never before encountered. What seems like a miracle is, however, threatened by her father-in-law’s decision to allow the mountain to be clear-felled by a logging company. Those who start reading and think this is the formulaic righteous woman plus scientist battling against hick farmers and loggers to save endangered species will need to think again! Of all the things I predicted about this novel at the beginning, the only one I got right was that it is very, very good. I was assured of that in just the first few pages by prose like “How they admired their own steadfast lives. Right up to the day when hope in all its versions went out of stock, including the crummy discount brands, and the heart had just one instruction left: run.” and “Whoever was in charge of the weather had put a recall on blue and nailed up this mess of dirty-white sky like a lousy sheet-rock job.” I also loved “His moustache made two curved lines around the sides of his mouth like parentheses, as if everything he might say would be very quiet, and incidental.” This novel has a plot that didn’t go where I expected; the characters, too, surprised me when I thought I had their measure. Kingsolver skilfully conveys the desperation of poverty in everyday life and its effect on education, life choices and what people come to believe. She also highlights the importance of the manner in which scientists convey their message to the general public. This novel had me laughing out loud (especially at Dovey’s church marquee sayings), choking up, giving a cheer (for Facebook of all things!), moved to caring about the fate of certain insects and thinking about many things: climate change, poverty, the decline of craftsmanship in the face of mass production, the cost of research, the disposable society and the increasing waste of goods. Kingsolver manages to make a huge amount of information about lepidoptery, sheep farming and lambing, global warming and the environment, easy to assimilate by incorporating it into this wonderfully uplifting tale. Her passion for the environment and our role in climate change is apparent in every paragraph. A brilliant, thought-provoking read, probably her best yet!
Barbara Kingsolver’s books are always exquisitely written stories of Everyman, and this one is no exception. I consider it her finest writing to date, primarily because of her willingness and ability to take on the so very controversial topic of global warming and the little understood Scientific Method. She does a fine descriptive job, introducing these subjects in terms a lay person can comprehend and appreciate: While being interviewed by a TV news reporter, the science protagonist says, “We are at the top of Niagara Falls in a canoe. … We got here by drifting, but we cannot turn around for a lazy paddle back …. We have arrived at the point of an audible roar. Does it strike you as a good time to debate the existence of the falls?”
As a scientist living in rural Southern Appalachia for over twenty years, I can assure you that Ms. Kingsolver’s characters are really real, not just stereotypes. They are all thoroughly and accurately and beautifully drawn. The science lessons are carefully and sometimes humorously informative and not “preachy”. As I said, her best book yet, a work of art. Flight Behavior: A Novel
Kingsolver’s latest effort re-explores many topics from her long career: feminism, science, sustainability, poverty, etc. Climate change is an important theme in this novel, but it does not come across as a preachy polemic, because all these things are woven seamlessly into the story.
Dellarobia Turnbow is a compelling lead character who makes it work. A bored and penniless farmwife in Appalachian Tennessee, she struggles with her drying-up marriage that began when she was 17 and pregnant. When a massive flock of Monarch butterflies takes a wrong turn and touches down in a forest valley on their property, the Turnbows are pulled out of their drab existence and forced to make difficult choices- personal ones, not political ones! Like the butterflies, Dellarobia is compelled to take flight- without any certainty of what awaits her.
Exhibiting great insight into human existence and featuring excellent dialogue, scene setting, and character development, this is one of Kingsolver’s best. It may add a dimension to be a global warming activist, but it is not needful. This novel will win her new fans.
The arrival of a new novel by Barbara Kingsolver is a happy event. Over the years, she has delighted readers and helped shape modern narrative fiction. “Animal Dreams” is still one of my very favorites and an early version of the multiple narrative technique. “Poisonwood Bible” told by five sisters was a particular accomplishment. For a number of years she focused on non-fiction in a desire to voice her environmental passions concerns and early in her career she wrote wonderful poetry and short stories, in both English and Spanish, as she is bi-cultural and bi-lingual. When “The Lacuna” published a couple of years ago, she returned to her Mexican roots to give us a quiet but powerful story of Frida, Diego and communism. A more sophisticated and subtle piece of writing that I loved.
Now Kingsolver has written a novel that speaks to ecology and life in Appalachia, where she lives with her family. In some way, this novel is an homage to the people of this rural landscape, warts and all, as well as a profound message about messing with the natural order of things.
The set-up is grand. Kingsolver takes a reality and extends it into parable. In the state of Michoacán, Mexico, destruction of a forest ecosystem left no home for the annual migration of Monarch butterflies. That’s truth. What she imagines is that a gigantic flock of these orange butterflies is thrown out of their flight behavior to a forest far from home, in Appalachia. And that forest has been designated for logging by a family facing harsh economic circumstances.
The heroine, Dellarobia Turnbow, has herself been thrown off course by an adolescent pregnancy and ill-fated marriage. She discovers the flaming orange trees, which at first she perceives to be a forest fire, and sets about to discover the meaning and perhaps alter the outcome. “Unearthly beauty had appeared to her, a vision of glory to stop her in the road… It looked like the inside of joy, if a person could see that. A valley of lights, an ethereal wind. It had to mean something. She could save herself.”
The church believes the phenomenon is a heavenly vision. Scientists descend to study the butterflies. Friends and neighbors are pitted on opposite sides of the logging debate. Winter will come soon and possibly destroy the butterflies at first frost. In the midst of these opposing forces, Dellarobia seeks her true north, and the fate of her children in the human ecosystem. “Her every possession was either unbreakable or broken.”
In a simple narrative with memorable characters, Kingsolver invites us to consider all the choices we make, for ourselves and for the globe.
This is a genuinely beautifully written novel – Kingsolver has mastered the art of the evocative sentence, the witty turn of phrase. But more than that, it is her characterization that carries the reader and turns this potentially preachy novel into a page-turner. Here, her focus is on small-town Appalachia, and her characters ones which, in other novels, would be sketched as ignorant Bible-belt hicks. The protagonist even references “Deliverance” to indicate the way these towns have been depicted. Instead of judging these characters, however, we are offered a very convincing window into their worldview, such that at the end of the day, it is the scientists and world-wise media who come across as unsympathetic and prejudiced.
But by entering this worldview, Kingsolver runs the risk of coming across as patronizing – and occasionally, especially towards the latter half of the novel, she does fall into the trap of oversimplification. The line between the characters and the reader becomes dangerously blurred, for example in her explanation of the phenomenon of the butterflies to pre-schoolers, to which we, the readers, have to listen to. We are thus presented with the same explanations and thoughts on this strange occurrence (why the butterflies are over-wintering in Appalachia rather than their usual spots in Mexico), and on climate change in general, several times during the novel, at various levels of complexity. It is as if Kingsolver is convinced to bridge the same gap she depicts in the novel, between the scientists and the so-called ‘hicks,’ amongst her readers, such that anyone picking up this book will leave with at least a basic, pre-school level understanding of climate change. This is admirable, but potentially misguided – generally speaking her target audience is not going to be low-information readers (especially since this book retails at almost $15). Thus the novel becomes increasingly repetitive, especially as all of the major character development happens early on – there are certainly some surprises in the second half, but the character arc of all the main figures is set within the first few chapters.
The butterflies themselves become a character in the novel, and you find yourself passionately rooting for their survival. The main event depicted in the novel (the displacement of the butterflies from their usual roosting place in Mexico to southern Appalachia) is fictional, although parts of the story are based on true events (the destruction of a Mexican mountain town through flooding, for example), and all of the examples of “global weirding” are eerily within the realm of possibility. Kingsolver is clearly passionate about the issue of climate change, and this is a powerful novel making a crucial intervention on this subject.
You will leave this novel, probably having learnt new facts and theories, but definitely having extended your comfort zone and challenged your own prejudices.