Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver

There are a few authors that I will read anything they’ve written.  Mary Roach, PG Wodehouse, Elizabeth George Speare, Michael Crichton, probably Carol Rifka Brunt after her gorgeous debut novel, Charles Dickens, and yes, Barbara Kingsolver.  I am forever indebted to a good friend who originally gave me a copy of The Poisonwood Bible – her favorite book, and now one of mine.

flight behaviorFlight Behavior opens with its protagonist, Dellarobia Turnbow, hurtling at break neck speed towards a doom of her own making. As she stumbles up a mountain side she sees a miracle that changes her mind, her direction, and her life.

There was something immensely personal in this book to me, which maybe isn’t fair for a review.  Not everyone will relate to Dellarobia the way I did.  In fact, I read many reviews that couldn’t get beyond their dislike of her, especially the way she treats her husband, Cub.  There are certainly moments that make you wince, but then, there are (many) moments in my life that I remember that way, too.  But it’s Dellarobia’s restlessness that feels so true to me – a yearning for more with very little idea of how to go about attaining it; a feeling of being compelled from one mistake in life to another, realizing you are a creation of your own decisions but never being able to see those decisions for what they are in the moment; and that sweet rush of feeling rescued by someone, only to come to understand that there is no rescue, no life boat – all of life is swimming, trying to keep your head above water.  How poignant then, the novel’s end.

Of course Kingsolver’s themes of environmental impact and sustainability are close to my own heart.  She writes beautifully of those that are too marred by life to worry about abstracts such as global warming, and the hypocrisy of a man telling a poor farm woman that she should reduce her carbon footprint.  The words she writes for Ovid are compelling and beautiful, but so is the mystification she writes for him, when he is presented with Dellarobia’s truths.  I think, actually, that is what I love about Kingsolver the most.  Her characters are never the butt of the joke.

Flight Behavior is a slow-roasted character story, more than a treatise on climate change, as some have written. But Kingsolver does both so well, it doesn’t really make much difference.

K’s rating of Flight Behavior: 9 mangoes

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