Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior
by Barbara Kingsolver
HarperCollins, 2012
448 pages
source: purchased e-book

Summary (from amazon):
Flight Behavior  is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver's riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world.

My thoughts:

I was a little apprehensive when Flight Behavior  was chosen as a recent book club selection. I've long been a fan of Barbara Kingsolver's writing, but not necessarily her novels... if that make any sense. Years ago when we discussed The Poisonwood Bible, I wasn't able to muster much enthusiasm, though one member found it "life changing". The same held true for my experience with Animal Dreams and Pigs in Heaven. Prodigal Summer, despite being a little preachy, was an exception.  I loved it.

As it turned out, reading Flight Behavior  was a pleasure. The story is engaging and timely, and Dellarobia Turnbow is a wonderfully sympathetic character. Her husband, in-laws, best friend, children, a visiting scientist accompanied by a pack of college students, and a minister are among the wide array of supporting characters populating this novel. The rural Tennessee community is buzzing with activity -  from migrating monarch butterflies and concerns of global warming, to marital and family tensions, religion and Christian values, and the business of raising sheep for wool production. And while it may have gotten a little long in the middle, I enjoyed every moment.

Favorite Quotes:
"He'd said good night as if they were friends parting ways, then rolled to his side and slept the sleep of a mountain range while she stared at the black air, dividing the river of her desperation into rivulets until some of them seemed navigable."  
"Despite the biological treachery of this snow, its beauty moved her. Even a field of mud and sheep droppings could be rewritten as a clean slate." 
"With the sense of a great weight settling, she recognized marriage. Not the precarious risk she'd balanced for years against forbidden fruits, something easily lost in a brittle moment by flying away or jumping a train to ride off on someone else's steam. She was not about to lose it. She'd never had it."
Bottom line:
Flight Behavior is my new favorite Kingsolver novel.

My rating:

36 comments:

  1. Ooh, this sounds fantastic. I'm embarrassed to say that I've never read anything by Barbara Kingsolver, so mayber this would be a good place to jump in.

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    1. Col - It's definitely my favorite, but I'd also recommend Prodigal Summer.

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  2. I'm a fan of Kingsolver's writing and her books so I'm looking forward to this one. I'm glad to see you liked it so much.

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    1. Kathy - If you're already a fan, I've no doubt you'll love this one!

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  3. I loved The Poisonwood Bible (and I have Prodigal Summer on my shelves) but I've been hesitant to read anything else because the reviews are always so all over the place. Some hate it, some love it...so I run off and find something else to read instead. I'll have to keep Prodigal Summer in mind next time I'm browsing my shelves. (I'm also really curious about how you are liking The Patriarch. I've got that audio but never loaded it.)

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    1. Sandy - I've hung on to The Poisonwood Bible for years thinking it deserves a reread... if only to find out what I missed the first time around! I'm on the 7th of 24 CDs of The Patriarch and think it's wonderful. The audio almost makes it seem like a novel... can't wait to get back in the car. It probably helps that I'm interested in almost anything having to do with the Kennedys :)

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  4. I'm glad to know you liked this one. I've been hesitant to try her fiction because I enjoy her non-fiction writing so much and I've seen mixed reviews of this book. It's sitting on my shelves at home right now, so I'll bump it up in the stacks.

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    1. Andi - Almost everyone in the book club either really liked or loved Flight Behavior. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is her only nonfiction I've read... will have to look for more.

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  5. I love the passages and sentences you quoted. Kingsolver's writing is what keeps drawing me back to her books. I've been curious about this one so I appreciate your review/comments. The passages from the book are wonderful!

    I generally enjoy Barbara Kingsolver's books but some are better than others. I think I agree with you about loving her writing but not always her books. I recently read Prodigal Summer _ I still have to review it - and I really enjoyed it, especially the elderly gentleman and his eccentric neighbor!

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    1. Amy - Oh, yes! Prodigal Summer was such a good story... will look forward to your review. You're right, it IS Kingsolver's writing that keeps drawing me back to her books.

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  6. I ended up liking the book but I tire of the message the author is always trying to push.

    I HATED what Della did to her kid though at the end. Ugh!

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    1. Ti - Kingsolver definitely has an agenda, even with her fiction. It didn't bother me as much this time though. And yes, the kid at the end...

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  7. I haven't read everything by this author, but I did enjoy this one a lot - wasn't perfect but very good.

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    1. Diane - I haven't read all of her books, either. Not sure if I'll get to The Lacuna.

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  8. I really liked Prodigal Summer too. And The Bean Trees. I haven't tried this one yet, good to know that you liked it :)

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    1. Stacybuckeye - I don't think I've read The Bean Trees... should really give that one a try.

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  9. Thanks for your review. It sounds like Flight Behavior is an interesting story.

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    1. Pat - I think it's definitely one of her best!

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  10. I, too have loved some of Kingsolver's books and not finished others. Now that I think about it, there have been parts of several books that lagged, or got preachy. For me it helps that I agree with the message. (pro-environmental mostly) This book had more to like, though it took me awhile to get into it.
    I'd add that if you can borrow a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle the part toward the end of the book where she tries to raise turkeys is a must-read. Sad and funny altogether!

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    1. Karen White - I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle shortly after it came out and have kept the book on my shelf ever since. It's definitely time to reread the turkey section!!

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  11. I have only read Prodigal Summer a long time ago. It took me a while to read it, but in the end I was happy that I had picked it up from the library. I hesitated about this one because of poor reviews I read. Really, I should not let other people's reviews sway me if it is something I am eager to read. Thanks for your honest opinion.

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    1. Rita - It seems like reviews for her last couple of books have varied widely, and my plan was to avoid both Flight Behavior and The Lacuna because of it. I would have hated to miss out on this one. Who knows, I may even give The Lacuna a try after all!

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  12. i also enjoyed this book a lot, well like every book by her!

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    1. Wordsandpeace - She is such a great writer!

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  13. So glad you loved it--I did too. Dellarobia was such an interesting person and though we are worlds apart, I could relate to her. Byron is my new hero :)

    Great review--you really captured what I loved about the book.

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    1. JaneGS - So true. Despite the fact that we have almost nothing in common, I loved Dellarobia. She is such an engaging main character. And oh, that Byron! The more I think about this book, the more I love it.

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  14. I've hesitated to read this one because of those mixed reviews. Maybe I'll try the audio.

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    1. Beth F - I probably should have mentioned this in the review, but I borrowed the audio from the library and listened to a CD or two because it's narrated by the author. Her voice is very slow and deliberate (I kept wanting her to talk faster), but also quite engaging.

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  15. I'm glad you liked this one. I had a few issues with the book but Dellarobia was such a great character, I loved her :D

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    1. Jennifer - Dellarobia was definitely my favorite part of the book - a great character!

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  16. I have not read Kingsolver at all. This story is very enticing. My mother's family is from Tennessee and I have been there many many times. I will be looking for this one. surely the library will have it. Thanks for a great review!

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    1. Peggy - I think this would be a great introduction to Kingsolver's writing. Hope you like it as much as I did !

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  17. I'm so glad to hear this one was good! Kingsolver has been very hit of miss for me. I've been hesitant to give her another shot, but I think I will.

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    1. Melissa - I've had a lukewarm reaction to most of Kingsolver's books, but this one was a winner!

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  18. I have started this one and at about 3 chapters in already love Dellarobia's character. Also, I spent a few years in East TN while growing up and can definitely see some of the characters from my childhood in Kingsolver's novel. Excellent review! glad you like it!

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    1. Stacy - I'm guessing you're loving this novel, too. Dellarobia is such a great character.

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