Flight Behavior centers around Dellarobia Turnbow, a 28-year old mother of two, who, with her husband and children, lives on her in-laws’ failing sheep farm in the Appalachia. Dellarobia and her family are scraping to make ends meet and facing the very real possibility of losing their farm.
The novel opens with Dellarobia, restless and unsatisfied with the marriage and life she fell into as the result of an unplanned pregnancy at seventeen, hiking up a mountain road behind her farm to change the course of her life by engaging in a tryst with a younger man. Her mission is abruptly halted when she encounters a lake of unburning fire in the forested valley. In this image, Kingsolver marries Dellarobia’s need for change with the effects of climate change being witnessed around the globe. This context, of nature in turmoil, provides the launching pad for Dellarobia to challenge her own belief system and that of those around her and to, eventually, grow wings and fly into a new kind of understanding of life.
Flight Behavior is not a preachy novel. It is a story of the personal evolution of a member of the working poor. But having that evolution take place in the context of a climate change anomaly gives the story added depth. It is the plain telling of Dellarobia’s unprivileged life – shopping in second hand and dollar stores for Christmas, trying to get more meat into her family’s diet because there is so little – and how that life faces, questions and interacts with issues of climate change and the people advocating for carbon reduction that provides a persistent tension in the novel and fascinating personal interactions between the believers and nonbelievers, that lead both, and perhaps the reader’s beliefs to evolve.
Flight Behavior is a thought-provoking story that gives the reader a window into a part of America largely ignored.
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