27 August 2012

Flight Behavior; Barbara Kingsolver

Flight BehaviorFlight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The author has a real point to make here: global warming is bad, logging is bad, they're killing the monarch butterfly population and Attention Must Be Paid. That message is interwoven with the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a poor farmer's wife who used to have dreams of college and something better.

Dellarobia married Cub at 17, pregnant with his child. She miscarried, and rather than leave Cub and continue with her plans for college she stays, eventually having Preston and Cordelia. One day, thinking she was so fed up that she was ready to have an affair with a much younger man, she walks up the hill from their farm and - it's a miracle. The valley at the top of the hill is alive with "flame". This sight turns her around, convinced that she should keep on the path she's already on.

We learn that this "field of flame" is really an aberration: millions(?) of monarch butterflies, who usually winter in Mexico, have descended on this valley in Tennessee. Soon it's national news, and then Dr. Ovid Byron moves in to an RV parked near their barn. Ovid (and his graduate students, post-docs and volunteers) study monarchs, occasionally pontificating on the horrors of global warming and the loss of the monarch. It's at those moments that the book lost me.

Dellarobia's journey was interesting, the monarchs a little less so. When characters start to serve as mouthpieces or deliver great scads of polemic, I tend to tune out. That's not to say that there isn't something to worry about, that I'm a denier of climate change, just that it felt as though Ovid could have been edited down a little more. The scene with him and the tv reporter? Totally unnecessary.

The ending also felt off: when did Dellarobia and Cub come to the decisions they did? What about her new insights into Hester and Bear? It was rushed, and had less Big Message been packed in perhaps we could have had a better ending.

ARC provided by publisher.

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