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.
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