If I said Kingsolver could write a cookbook and I’d read it, would you believe me? (She almost did with ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE, and I did read that.) One of my favorite of all-time authors, Barbara Kingsolver, works her magic again in FLIGHT BEHAVIOR. She takes an ordinary family that is struggling within the boundaries of a failing marriage on a failing farm and pairs it with a failing environment and creates an amazing book.
I will admit to some hesitancy at the start of this book. Due to my own personal history, I was a afraid I was reading a book that would expect me to cheer for a woman leaving her family which would be hard for me to embrace, but I stuck with it, and boy was I glad I did. Dellarobia Turnbow (a fantastic character name) feels herself dying inside and her threatened life mirrors the plight of the Monarch butterflies that visit the part of Appalachia in which she lives. It is a personal, political, and ecological tale worth reading.
One can expect Kingsolver to provide a reader with a sumptuous setting, rich prose, and characters so familiar you’d swear you know them in real life, and she doesn’t skimp in this title. One can also expect Kingsolver to find some real and current issue worth caring about to be at the heart of her stories, and that is present here, too, but, I’d say, it felt a little more front-and-center in this book. It’s not a bad thing and it didn’t take away from the story for me, but it did seem more obvious. Other reviews state that it was too present for them.
In this book, the thing that really spoke loudest to me was the relationships between the characters. It smacked of honesty. It felt real and human, and in the end, hopeful, which is how I want to feel at the end of a hard story. However, the ending is one that is left up to the interpretation of the reader. It wasn’t my favorite ending because it’s not clear whether the reader should take it literally or figuratively, but that’s as much as I’ll say about it since I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t read it.
Kingsolver reminds me, as a writer, to strive to make hope attainable, and if it’s not possible to put it within a reader’s grasp, then it should at least be put it within a reader’s line of sight. Go ahead and tell the hard story, but remind the reader that the story doesn’t end there. Hope resurrected, hope for life in a new way.
Have you read FLIGHT BEHAVIOR? How do you feel about reading explicit ecological themes? Do you feel like Kingsolver went too far with this one? Did you feel hopeful at the end of this story? Is a glimmer of hope at the end of a story good enough for you?
Thanks for reading!