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.
About Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. In 2000 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain’s Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
At 17, English honor student Dellarobia thought she would escape a future of grim rural poverty by attending college. Instead, she got pregnant and married. Now 27, feeling stifled by the responsibility of two young children she loves and a husband she tolerates, Dellarobia is heading to her first adulterous tryst when she happens upon a forested valley taken over by a host of brilliant orange butterflies that appear at first like a silent fire. She skips the tryst, but her life changes in unexpected ways. Soon after, Dellarobia leads her sweet if dim husband, Cub, to the butterflies, and they become public knowledge. The butterflies have landed in Tennessee because their usual winter habitat in Mexico has been flooded out. The local church congregation, including Dellarobia’s mother-in-law, Hester, embraces the butterflies’ arrival as a sign of grace. Influenced by her beloved preacher, usually antagonistic Hester (a refreshingly complex character) becomes a surprising ally in convincing Dellarobia’s father-in-law not to cut down the forest for much-needed cash, although she is not above charging tourists, who arrive in increasing numbers to view the spectacle. Soon, a handsome black scientist with a Caribbean accent has set up in her barn to study the beautiful phenomena, which he says may spell environmental doom. Dellarobia is attracted to the sophisticated, educated world Dr. Byron and his grad school assistants represent. When she takes a job working with the scientists, the schisms in her already troubled marriage deepen. Yet, she is fiercely defensive against signs of condescension toward her family and neighbors; she really goes after a guy whose list of ways to lower the carbon footprint—“bring your own Tupperware to a restaurant,” “fly less”—have no relevance to people trying to survive economically day-by-day. – Kirkus Reviews
First Read: Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Flight Behavior’
NPR Book Review – October 17, 2012 (Excerpt)
Dellarobia Turnbow, the smart-mouthed heroine of Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, is frustrated by her marriage to Cub, the boy who got her pregnant in high school, and by the grinding privation of life on her in-laws’ failing farm. Kingsolver mixes a story of personal awakening with themes of environmental stewardship and climate change as a freak natural phenomenon begins to transform Dellarobia’s life. This exclusive excerpt exhibits one of the book’s pleasures — Kingsolver’s closely observed depictions of rural life — as it introduces the main characters. In the excerpt, Dellarobia is still thinking about the strange vision she’d witnessed the day before, of “a mighty blaze rising from ordinary forest” but not consuming it. She’d been hiking through the woods to meet a lover, a tryst she abandons after her near-religious experience. As Dellarobia soon learns, the flames were actually monarch butterflies whose migration was thrown off by environmental devastation and weird weather (and which appeared flame-like because she’d left her glasses at home). Flight Behavior will be published Nov. 6. [Read the full article...]
Book World: Barbara Kingsolver’s novel approach in ‘Flight Behavior’
The Washington Post Book Review – October 30, 2012 (Excerpt)
Earlier this month, a writer in the Guardian lamented the scarcity of novels about “the most pressing and complex problem of our time”: climate change. “We don’t want to have this conversation,” complained Daniel Kramb, “and neither do most characters in most novels being published.”
As Paul Ryan would say, the dangers of this so-called crisis are debatable. Imagine if “most characters in most novels” lectured each other about climate change. I’d push the last polar bear off his melting ice floe to avoid that. And who exactly would be converted by these missing environmental stories? Are oil lobbyists just one good climate-change novel away from seeing the error of their ways?
Now the sun rises on Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior,” a climate-change novel described by the publisher as “her most accessible and commercial book to date” — the literary equivalent of whole-wheat pasta your kids will love! There are, of course, reasons to be skeptical. In 2000, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize to promote, among other liberal goals, novels that “advocate the preservation of nature.” Fortunately, her own books have been more subtle than the earnest Bellwether winners, and “Flight Behavior” is not the op-ed-in-story-form that one might fear.[Read the full article...]
Barbara Kingsolver’s got the Red State blues in ‘Flight Behavior’
The Los Angeles Times Book Review – November 2, 2012 (Excerpt)
Strange things are happening in Appalachia. The natural world as we know it is coming to an end, overheated by human greed.
“Global warming” is a dangerously loaded expression in the rural, Republican-loving, God-fearing Tennessee of Barbara Kingsolver’s didactic and preachy new novel, “Flight Behavior.” The people of the fictional Feathertown have been taught by talk radio that it’s a big-city scam concocted by Al Gore.
But then shifting global weather patterns bring millions of butterflies to the property of Dellarobia Turnbow’s family. They’re monarchs, the same ones that usually migrate to Mexico. Freaked out by warmer temperatures and a logging-induced flood that wiped out their Mexican habitat, they’ve turned north to spend winter in the American South.
In Kingsolver’s telling, the locals are too closed-minded to wrap their brains around this scientific truth, even when it’s staring them in the face. [Read the full article...]
‘Flight Behavior’ Weds Issues To A Butterfly Narrative
NPR Book Review – November 6, 2012 (Excerpt)
Barbara Kingsolver’s commitment to literature promoting social justice runs so deep that in 1998 she established the Bellwether Prize (now the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction) to encourage it.
In the wrong hands, fiction written to convey urgent social messages is as tedious as a political harangue. But done well, it can be both eye-opening and moving: think Charles Dickens on children and poverty in Oliver Twist; Upton Sinclair on the meat-processing industry in The Jungle; Toni Morrison on the tolls of slavery in Beloved; E.L. Doctorow on the collateral damage of war in The March.
While Kingsolver’s seventh novel, Flight Behavior, does not quite achieve the resonance of Morrison’s and Doctorow’s masterpieces, this is partly due to its inherently less dramatic material. What it shares with these books is an integration of important issues with engaging narrative that feels organic: A colony of butterflies and a young woman have both deviated from their optimal flight paths, a story Kingsolver uses to take on global warming and the high costs to society of grossly inadequate public school education, especially in the sciences. [Read the full article...]
The Butterfly Effect - ‘Flight Behavior,’ by Barbara Kingsolver
The New York Times Book Review – November 9, 2012 (Excerpt)
Dellarobia Turnbow is about to fling herself into a love affair that will wreak havoc on her placid life, and she’s worried about what she’s wearing. She’s frantic with desire, frantic with passion, also frantic for a cigarette. Her boots, bought secondhand, “so beautiful she’d nearly cried when she found them,” are killing her. It’s the wettest fall on record in southern Appalachia, and she has to be hiking in pointed-toe calfskin on a steep, muddy trail to a deserted cabin for an illicit rendezvous.
All sorts of “crazy wanting,” both prosaic and earth-shattering, are shot through the intricate tapestry of Barbara Kingsolver’s majestic and brave new novel, “Flight Behavior.” Her subject is both intimate and enormous, centered on one woman, one family, one small town no one has ever heard of — until Dellarobia stumbles into a life-altering journey of conscience. How do we live, Kingsolver asks, and with what consequences, as we hurtle toward the abyss in these times of epic planetary transformation? And make no mistake about it, the stakes are that high. Postapocalyptic times, and their singular preoccupation with survival, look easy compared with this journey to the end game. Yet we must also deal with the pinching boots of everyday life. [Read the full article...]
CRIMSON DAWN Book One of the Darklife Saga by Ronnie Massey
Two Women Hunting A Rogue Vampire
Vampire Valeria Trumaine must confront old demons and face new possibilities as she struggles to bring a rogue vampire to justice. Her best friend and powerful Sidhe princess, Irulan, joins the hunt. Valeria will find that Irulan’s motives for keeping her safe are not what she thinks. And soon she is faced with an undeniable attraction that makes her question everything she knew about herself. [Read More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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