Tuesday, January 22, 2013

FLIGHT BEHAVIOR by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver's newest novel, Flight Behavior (November 2012), may be just the book you're looking for for your next book group meeting.

The main character, Dellarobia Turnbow, is a 27-year-old mother of two who for years has felt like flying from her nest. Just as she is about to do something definitive, she encounters about a million Monarch butterflies who, for reasons unknown, have flown from theirs. Complications ensue.

Here are some reasons Flight Behavior is so suitable for book groups:
  • Dellarobia may be an Appalachian farm wife, but all kinds of readers will identify with her if they've ever married, raised children, or wondered what a completely different life would be like.
  • You could spend hours talking about marriage as portrayed in this book: what makes it real, what constitutes infidelity, whether Dellarobia should stay in hers or leave.
  • Or you might prefer to discuss climate change: what it's doing to the earth right now, whether the events in this book could actually happen, and how to  deal with it (deny? study? protest?).
  • Even more interesting, to me anyway--you could look at the culture clash represented by Dellarobia's neighbors, on the one hand, and the various visitors to her neighborhood, on the other. Are Kingsolver's portrayals accurate? Do you know people like these? Are they doomed to misunderstand each other forever?
  • Or you might try going beyond the story itself to predict what Dellarobia is going to do next, and to imagine how her actions are going to affect the other characters in the book. What should she do?
I enjoyed the story from start to finish. Kingsolver has a great sense of humor. She is gentle with all her characters: even the less lovable ones surprise us with good traits. She is a keen observer of people as well as of nature. It's not surprising to learn (from her website) that she lives in Southern Appalachia and raises sheep. As someone who identifies with conservationists more readily than with rednecks, I was especially delighted whenever she turned the tables on me and my prejudices and showed me just how wrong I can be.

The paperback isn't due until June, but the hardcover is inexpensive from Amazon right now. Or you could make this a summer selection.

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