Review: Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior
By Barbara Kingsolver
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062124265, November 2012, 448pp.

The Short of It:

Beautifully rendered but tragic in many ways.

The Rest of It:

Dellarobia Turnbow is the mother of two, poor as can be and married to a husband who still answers to his parents. Living on a farm with a roof over your head and food on the table sounded a lot more “settled” when they were young, pregnant and without other prospects.

Now, a decade later, Dellarobia finds herself running up a mountain to have a tryst with a younger man. On her climb up, she is reminded of her place when her secondhand boots (the nicest she has ever owned) begin to pinch. Distracted momentarily by the boots, she doesn’t realize what lies before her until she looks up and sees it. Before her is a forest filled with fire. Red and orange everywhere, but no smoke. Terrified, she flees down the mountain taking it as a sign from the heavens and returns to the life she’s been given not realizing at first the implications of what remains on that mountain.

I went into this one with absolutely no idea what it was about. Have you ever done that? I’ve read many of Kingsolver’s books and although I can’t say I’ve loved all of them, I think about them often. That is the case with Flight Behavior. From the very beginning, I wasn’t sure about Dellarobia. She’s quick-witted, sharp with her tongue but essentially a good mother. As a family of four, living in a house that technically belongs to her in-laws, she struggles to make do on the farm. However, she’s really hard to like. She’s resentful of the life she has and tired of struggling financially so when she hears that the farm is in worse shape than she originally thought, all she can do is be bitter about it.

As the story unfolds and the reader is clued in on what is actually up there on the mountain, Dellarobia is given a new sense of purpose and becomes this “other” self who for me, was more likable. I found this version of her easier to relate to and I began to see her life from her point of view. Suddenly, I understood her resentment. This made the middle of the book very compelling.

But then, it all went to hell.

Not really, but sort of.

I really, really do not like it when an author shoves something down your throat and with this one, I felt as if the issue of global warming was being pounded into my head. Repeatedly. It became clear to me that the novel was really a vehicle for delivering a message she feels very passionate about.

Then, to add the icing to the cake, Dellarobia did something that totally pissed me off. Was it in character for her to have done it? Absolutely, but I was hoping she’d go a different route and how she chooses to share her decision upset me so much, that I had to mention it on Facebook. I felt as if someone punched me in the gut and I immediately disliked her again.

What I can say is this, this was a very unique read for me. My feelings were all over the place while reading this book and I was pulled in by the writing, which is often beautiful and sometimes haunting. I just wish the message had been a bit more subtle so that I could come to my own conclusion on the issue.

This would make a great book club pick because I bet readers would be equally divided over it. Some will love it, and others will find fault with much of it, but in the end appreciate the writing which is the camp I landed in. It’s passionately written, and for that I give the author credit but it’s tragic too. Tragic in that lives are changed forever and global warming is no longer something we read about.

Would I recommend it? Yes, for the discussion aspect, but know going in that there is an intentional message being sent here.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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29 Responses

  1. I felt irritated just reading that you were irritated! LOL I would probably be inclined to skip this one!

  2. It seems like Kingsolver often has an issue or message to push. This book intrigues me… I’ll get to it one of these days!

  3. The overall message of climate change didn’t bother me – it’s one that needs to be highlighted BUT I was also p.o.’d at Dellarobia’s decision. It didn’t seem necessary, or even right,

  4. I used to love Kingsolver’s early books but soon after The Poisonwood Bible, it seemed that her “message” in each book screamed so loudly I could never lose myself in the narrative of the story, ruining them for me. Glad to know I am not alone. I was thinking about trying this one and seeing if things had changed, but will skip it. Thanks for review.

    • I’ve read a few and the ones I liked the most were Prodigal Summer which I felt had a message but was more subtle about it and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (memoir of sorts) that was wonderful and probably my fave book of hers thus far. I think she should save the message for a non-fiction book. At least then I know going into it that that is what it’s about.

  5. Thanks for your honest review, Ti. I think this one is one of those love it or hate it books. I agree, Kingsolver can be heavy-handed, but I believe it comes from her fear and concern for the planet and all who live on it. I have Flight Behavior on hold at the library but there are many requests in front of me.

    • I support her efforts as bringing awareness to the situation. She did so in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I ADORED that book, but it wasn’t fiction and I knew going into it that that is what it was going to be about. I just feel that now her novels are only written to share the message she has about climate change. And as a reader said before you comment, you can’t lose yourself in the story when you are aware of being educated in a particular matter.

  6. I get what you mean about an author shoving their ideas down your throat – being subtle is more effective if you ask me. I still want to read this though, because I love Kingsolver.

  7. I’ll probably still read it because I liked the previous books I read by her. But you’re right, she’s not very subtle with her agenda, and when she’s not trying to be subtle – as with her non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – she can be down-right pushy!

  8. I have this one, and rarely find that Kingsolver’s books don’t have a message! I do want to read it, but I am less eager now to hear that this is a book with an agenda. I think we all have our limits with this kind of thing, but Kingsolver rarely recognizes that. Very interesting review Ti. It does seem as though you were all over the place with it!

  9. Hmmm…love your thoughts about this…lately I hate anything with a message…especially a book…

  10. I am glad I read the Poisonwood Bible but I am still not sure I really ever need to read another Kingsolver.

    • Her writing is lovely and I support what she pushes. I just wish she used a gentler hand to get her point across. It takes away from the story.

  11. Eh. Didn’t she do that shoving thing with a book about being a vegetarian? And moving to the country and raising your own stuff? An author can only pull that off for so long, no matter how excellent the writing. I’ve so damned many books to read, I am thinking this one will be a pass for me.

    • She did, Sandy! But Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was a memoir and so her agenda was up front and center and you knew that going in. I actually think that is her best book yet. Maybe because I knew what to expect going in and wasn’t distracted by trying to get back to a story.

  12. I fell in love with Kingsolver when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I need to get my hands on this new one.

  13. Yeah I have been a bit wary of this one for the reasons you stated. Not on my TBR so far, but quite a few people liked it

  14. There’s definitely a fine line between inspiring thoughts and shoving a message down your throat. It’ll probably be a while, if ever, before I get to this so I’m going to go check out your spoiler on FB! :)

    • It’s a minor spoiler since I didn’t really say what happened, but anyone halfway thru the book can figure it out from my FB comments if they see them so I wanted to be fair to those that are reading it now.

  15. Oh now I am intrigued! I LOVED Kingslover until her last one which did not work for me. However, I definitely want to read this one if it provokes such strong reactions.

  16. It sounds to me like the plot is a little disjointed? From your review I get a sense that there are several different themes in this story and all of them are fighting for the spotlight… am I wrong? I have been wanting to read this, but am hesitant at this point.

  17. I wasn’t bothered by the global warming of ending. I just sort of went went the flow. I did think it was a bit too long though.

  18. After reading others thoughts on this one, I realized that she had a message for sure. Knowing that going in will help me with it all. I loved Poisonwood Bible so much….haven’t read anything else by her since that one!

  19. I’m not a big Kingsolver fan but I’ve heard she is very preachy but I actually heard this one was not as preachy as others!! Oy vey!

  20. I had started this one last month and then gave up on it. For some reason, and I think it’s because of how busy last month was, I just couldn’t get into this book. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t read it because I sure get annoyed as hell if the author tries too hard to drive a message home.

  21. So many people have been raving about this one, but if I’m going to read one of her books I want to start with The Poisonwood Bible first.

  22. I love Kingsolver’s writing but I found found that she does seem to have an agenda in all of her books that she is none too subtle about. Still, sounds like this is a book that brought out a lot of emotion, gave you a lot to think about and was well written. All of which mean that I’ll probably read it – luckily I’ll know, going in, that it might just piss me off!

  23. […] Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 2. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver 3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain 4. The […]

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