Thursday, November 15, 2012

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Title: Flight Behavior
Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Appalachia / Tennessee / 20something / Marriage / Natural Phenomena / Families / Lepidoptera)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (11/6/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: In rural Tennessee, a young mother finds herself at the center of a heartbreaking and miraculous migration of butterflies.

Do I like the cover?: It's grown on me -- I was sort of 'eh' about it before reading but now I rather like it. The leaf/feather/wing motif is echoed in the chapter headers as well.

I'm reminded of...: Sena Jeter Naslund, Ann Patchett

First line: A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy.

Why did I get this book?: I cave to popular sentiment: I couldn't pass up a new Kingsolver.

Review: Like Stephen King, my experience with Kingsolver has been one hit with many DNF'd misses. This book might break that streak, however. It reminded me of what I so enjoyed in The Poisonwood Bible: a sharp look at family, loyalty and betrayal, a nebulous swirl of science and magic. The vibe of this felt like Ann Patchett's State of Wonder with Sena Jeter Naslund's Adam and Eve and a bit of Lauren Groffs The Monsters of Templeton -- all books with really lovely language, maddening and fascinating plots, heroines that kind of annoyed me, and realities that touched lightly on the fantastical.

Dellarobia Turnbow, redheaded, size zero (and dinky tiny as we're constantly told), is 27, the mother of two children, married to a cowed mama's boy nicknamed Cub, living in rural Tennessee. The novel opens with Dellarobia on her way to meet a much younger man for a fling at a small hunting shack out on her husband's family's property. Vain, she takes off without her glasses and stumbles upon a staggering sight: the entire mountaintop coated in what seems to be living fire. It turns out to be about 15 million monarch butterflies, driven out of their usual migratory pattern due to ecological changes.

Dellarobia's discovery of them is seen by her husband -- unaware of her earlier trek up the mountain-- as a kind of religious vision while her in-laws see it as a money making venture (or obstacle to their making money). For Dellarobia, it is a visceral sign of all that is wrong with her and her life.  She's confused, electrified, inspired, and devastated by the arrival of the butterflies, but what comes with them helps her eventually make sense of who she wants to be. 

This book preoccupied me: when not reading, I chewed over Dellarobia and her life, dying of curiosity, needing to know what happened next. When reading, I was mostly caught up in the story, although Dellarobia occasionally felt too self-conscious about her poverty and lack of education.  The themes of conservation, education, and religion also felt a bit heavy-handed at times but I appreciate Kingsolver's interest in taking them on in her fiction.

The writing, of course, was wonderful.  Kingsolver can turn a phrase like nobody's business, the kind of sentences that make me giddy at being able to read. Like, Dellarobia had managed to corral her fleecy hair into two wild blond poofs, with a center part so crooked it could get you a DUI... My copy is full of underlined sentences, like a textbook.

I think Kingsolver fans will like this (maybe even love it) and those new to her will get a treat -- although I'd still advise folks to start with The Poisonwood Bible, many other folks are saying this is her best.


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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Flight Behavior to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 11/30.


30 comments:

  1. I love Kingsolver's writing. I haven't even started this one though. I'm just so behind with everything it seems.

    I thought that cover was just the ARC cover. LOL. It's horrible!

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    1. I'm not a Kingsolver fan so I was nervous but this one worked -- I feel ya on getting behind! I've been so behind! Re: the cover: I hated it at first but it's really grown on me!

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  2. I'm so glad to finally know what this book is about! I've seen the cover several times, but never had a chance to look it up. I *love* the "a center part so crooked it could get you a DUI" quote. I'd definitely like to read more.

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    1. The cover isn't exactly evocative -- I'm not sure why they didn't go with a butterfly motif -- too obvious? -- regardless, the language is lovely and very much worth enjoying!

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  3. The Poisonwood Bible is one of the best books I've read and if readers think this is better, then it has to be on my list! Nice review.

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    1. I still think I prefer The Poisonwood Bible to this one but I'm in the minority -- most are in rapturous swoons over this one!

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  4. Nice that it kept you thinking even between reading, and the image of the butterflies sounds gorgeous. Love so many of hers but agree, Poisonwood Bible maybe a favorite. Will definitely get to this one.

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    1. Would love to know what you think -- it was a looong time ago that I read Poisonwood Bible but it really has stuck with me -- while writing this review I was torn between liking it and loving it -- with moments of being mad! -- so it is certainly a book that stuck with me!

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  5. I so want to read this one! I have loved some of her work, and hated other books, but this one seems to be getting a lot of positive attention around the blogs, and I really like that it has to do with butterflies. They are my favorite animal. Loved this review, Audra. You captured the tone and spirit perfectly, and I am going to be looking for it.

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    1. Heather -- would love to know your thoughts if you get to it -- I've seen a few lukewarm reviews but mostly swoons. The butterfly element was a surprise -- I hadn't realized it -- and it made me go google crazy to find pics.

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  6. I have this on hold. I'm expecting to enjoy it but I can't imagine enjoying it more than I did The Poisonwood Bible.

    And the main character is having this kind of crisis at 27? I'll be 27 next March but my life isn't as advanced as hers! :P

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    1. Yeah, the age thing was quite odd for me -- I kept aging her in my head -- but the idea is she had a shotgun marriage at 17 and so she's got a decade of marriage under her belt and two kids now and she's ready to live her life -- so I suppose it makes sense -- can't wait to see how you find it.

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  7. I've loved every Kingsolver book I've read so I'm excited about this one. I'm even more excited now that I know you liked it so much.

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  8. Bahaha, so funny. I was all YAY KINGSOLVER YOU MAKE MY LIFE and you said you usually don't like her stuff. Then you liked it and I mostly didn't. This is ironic.

    Maddening plot. Yup, that sounds about right.

    We ARE constantly told how tiny Dellarobia (not Dellrobia, just fyi) is. Ugh, that was annoying. "Even now I'm a size zero, so no one takes me seriously! Wahhhhh, my life is so hard." I wanted to hit her over the head with some sort of farming implement. Thanks for making me feel like a fat cow, Dellarobia.

    Really? I could barely focus on this book when I was reading it and as soon as I put it down, it was out of there.

    I don't really know why this one annoyed me so much when so many others loved it so. Oh well. Seems to be one of my best written reviews, though, because I have an insane number of Yeses on Amazon. People have been surprisingly mature about it, although one guy did accuse me of working for some sort of anti-environment PAC). Sometimes humanity surprises me.

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    1. Thanks for noting the name -- which I messed up even more while writing this review -- even her surname. Huge mental block about her, considering I didn't actually mind her all that much! The size thing was just a bit much -- she had shades of Mary Sue threatening and in another writer I would have really been disgusted -- but she mostly kept my interest. I'm really back-and-forth about the eco/enviro part of this -- like I said, on one hand I'm delighted she's tackling this issue but on the other hand, it felt so v preachy at times (or teacher-y, like, Sophie's World or whatever that philosophy novel was).

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    2. Sophie's World is right, I think, by Jostein Gaarder, which I haven't read but do own. I found this one quite preachy. I don't need to hear everything twice! Maybe it would have been more effective is the scientist explained to her, and then she used metaphors to convey the ideas to her husband, instead of just translating the scientist directly to the reader?

      I did think the scene where the guy interviewed her on how to reduce her carbon footprint was hilarious, though.

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  9. Felt very similar to you about Flight Behavior. I'm also not so fond of Kingsolver. Perhaps this book just appeals to a more mainstream audience than her other work.

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    1. I'm pretty sure the back of my ARC is emblazoned with something like 'Kingsolver's most commercially accessible book' -- so that might just be it!

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  10. Felt very similar to you about Flight Behavior. I'm also not so fond of Kingsolver. Perhaps this book just appeals to a more mainstream audience than her other work.

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  11. I've read only Prodigal Summer and found it a "different" type of read. I'd still like to read this as I found reviews very conflicting on this one.

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  12. You had me at "It reminded me of what I so enjoyed in The Poisonwood Bible".

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  13. I generally enjoy Kingsolver's writing - some books more than others. The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer have been my favorites. Would definitely like to read this one!

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    1. Most folks have loved this but Christina above -- a hardcore Kingsolver fan -- was less excited about this one -- so I suppose it really is about how it hits you!

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  14. I think I'll probably go for The Poisonwood Bible first (your words have backed up what I've heard elsewhere) but I like the premise of this, it just sounds lovely. Weird character name though!

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    1. This was interesting enough -- and there's a lovely/sad story to Dellarobia's name -- but I still think The Poisonwood Bible is the stronger book.

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  15. I also thought it was another awesome Kingsolver: http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/10/29/2012-55-review-flight-behavior/
    thanks for the giveaway!

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  16. wow, sounds great! I've never read her but you're seriously tempting me!

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  17. The entire first paragraph of your review has me intrigued. I LOVE Poisonwood Bible but so far haven't been able to get into State of Wonder, and Adam & Eve was a DNF for me. I have no idea what I'll think of Kingsolver's latest!

    Thanks for being on the tour Audra.

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    1. If you get around to it, come back and tell me what you think! Adam & Eve was awful (I thought), and State of Wonder frustrated me -- but there was something very similar to all three.

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  18. I plan to squeeze this one in before the end of the year. Sadly the only Kingsolver I've read is The Lacuna (partly brilliant must mostly meh), so hearing this one is stronger makes me happy. The Poisonwood Bible is also in my 'soon' pile, as Mr. Nomadreader adores it. I think I'll read this one first and save myself the joy of Poisonwood a little bit longer:-)

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