Here is Barbara Kingsolver, weaving together the themes of climate change, feminist coming-of-age, rural poverty, family relations, and love into a tautly organized, suspenseful, and compelling story. Because of the author’s unique qualifications — she lives on a farm in Appalachia, is the mother of two children, raises sheep, possesses degrees in biology, and is married to an environmental studies teacher — it’s difficult to imagine anyone else writing this novel. In some ways, Flight Behavior may well be the most personal of her many books because it appears to draw on every aspect of her life.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
The protagonist of Flight Behavior is Dellarobia Turnbow, a bright, 28-year-old Tennessee woman who lives on a failing farm with her two small children and slow-moving husband, whom she “accidentally” married before graduating from high school when she became pregnant. In circumstances that are central to the plot, Dellarobia stumbles upon a spectacular sight in the hills above her home — a sight that upends her life, subjects her to ridicule in her clannish and change-resistant community, and attracts the attention of the media and the scientific community to her farm. As she stumbles through the unprecedented events that unfold once the word is out, Dellarobia is forced to reevaluate her life, her potential, and her relationships with everyone close to her.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (2012) 452 pages ★★★★★
Though I suspect the author would fiercely protest the label, Flight Behavior is a work of speculative fiction, a circumlocution for science fiction that’s used when “serious” writers depart from current reality in their writing. In a postscript, Kingsolver describes the elements of the story that are based on established fact and those that are fanciful though entirely possible (based on conversations with climate change experts). However it’s characterized, though, this novel is an outstanding piece of work, nearly on a par with Kingsolver’s masterpiece, The Poisonwood Bible.
For related reading
I’ve also reviewed three of the authors other novels:
- The Lacuna (Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera, and the Red Scare)
- The Poisonwood Bible (A brilliant novel explores the legacy of colonialism in the Congo)
- Demon Copperhead (An engrossing novel of the drug epidemic)
This book is one of Top 10 great popular novels.
If your taste runs to genre fiction, check out my posts:
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10
- My 20 favorite espionage novels
- 20 excellent standalone mysteries and thrillers
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, on the Home Page.