Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior

3.9 188
by Barbara Kingsolver
     
 

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"Kingsolver is a gifted magician of words."
Time

The extraordinary New York Times bestselling author of The Lacuna (winner of the Orange Prize), The Poisonwood Bible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize), and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver returns with a truly stunning and unforgettable work.

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Overview

"Kingsolver is a gifted magician of words."
Time

The extraordinary New York Times bestselling author of The Lacuna (winner of the Orange Prize), The Poisonwood Bible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize), and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver returns with a truly stunning and unforgettable work. 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. Flight Behavior is arguably Kingsolver's must thrilling and accessible novel to date, and like so many other of her acclaimed works, represents contemporary American fiction at its finest.

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Editorial Reviews

the Oprah Magazine O
“Dellarobia is appealingly complex as a smart, curious, warmhearted woman desperate to-no resisting the metaphor here-trade her cocoon for wings.”
Starred Review Booklist
“Drawing on both her Appalachian roots and her background in biology, Kingsolver delivers a passionate novel on the effects of global warming.”
Ron Charles
“Kingsolver has written one of the more thoughtful novels about the scientific, financial and psychological intricacies of climate change. And her ability to put these silent, breathtakingly beautiful butterflies at the center of this calamitous and noisy debate is nothing short of brilliant.”
Julia Ingalls
“Novelists like Kingsolver have a particular knack for making us empathize with lives that may bear little resemblance to our own…What lifts FLIGHT BEHAVIOR…is not just Kingsolver’s nuanced and funny prose; it’s Dellarobia’s awakening to the possibilities around her.”
Elle
“A dazzling page-turner”
People
“Spirituality, a troubled marriage, global warming…Kingsolver’s latest is a bold mélange, but it works.”
Oprah.com
“…Enthralling…Dellarobia is appealingly complex as a smart, curious, warmhearted woman desperate to-no resisting the metaphor here-trade her cocoon for wings.”
New York Times Book Review
“One of the gifts of a Kingsolver novel is the resplendence of her prose. She takes palpable pleasure in the craft of writing, creating images that stay with the reader long after her story is done…(a) majestic and brave new novel.”
Seattle Times
“Kingsolver has constructed a deeply affecting microcosm of a phenomenon that is manifesting in many different tragic ways, in communities and ecosystems all around the globe. This is a fine and complex novel.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“So captivating is this grand, suspenseful plot and the many subplots rising and falling beneath it that it takes some time before we realize what this story is really about -- climate change.”
NPR
“Kingsolver is a storyteller first and foremost, as sensitive to human interactions and family dynamics as she is to ecological ones.”
BookPage
“a delicate symbiosis between the sacred and the scientific in this richly rewarding novel that will both entertain and incite its readers.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“By the end of FLIGHT BEHAVIOR, it’s clear that Kingsolver’s passionate voice and her ability to portray the fragility of the natural world, and why we should care about it, are as strong as ever.”
USA Today
“FLIGHT BEHAVIOR is a terrifically entertaining read about a spirited young woman you’ll miss the minute you reach the last page.”
New York Times
“Marvelous…This is fiction rich in empathy, wit and science. Like the butterflies that astonish Feathertown, Kingsolvian gifts are ‘fierce and wondrous,’ ‘colors moving around like fire.’”
Entertainment Weekly
“Dellarobia is a smart, fierce, messy woman, and one can’t help rooting for her to find her wings.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“FLIGHT BEHAVIOR is a book worth reading twice? first for the intricacies of character, second for the dense, beautiful language Kingsolver puts on the page. She’s a keen observer of the messiness and unexpected beauty of the quotidian.”
The New Yorker
“[Kingsolver’s] keen grasp of delicate ecosystems-both social and natural-keeps the story convincing and compelling.”
O: the Oprah Magazine

“Dellarobia is appealingly complex as a smart, curious, warmhearted woman desperate to-no resisting the metaphor here-trade her cocoon for wings.”

The Washington Post
Kingsolver has written one of the more thoughtful novels about the scientific, financial and psychological intricacies of climate change. And her ability to put these silent, breathtakingly beautiful butterflies at the center of this calamitous and noisy debate is nothing short of brilliant. Flight Behavior isn't trying to reform recalcitrant consumers or make good liberals feel even more pious about carpooling—so often the purview of environmental fiction—it's just trying to illuminate the mysterious interplay of the natural world and our own conflicted hearts.
—Ron Charles
The New York Times Book Review
All sorts of "crazy wanting," both prosaic and earth-shattering, are shot through the intricate tapestry of Barbara Kingsolver's majestic and brave new novel, Flight Behavior. Her subject is both intimate and enormous, centered on one woman, one family, one small town no one has ever heard of—until Dellarobia stumbles into a life-altering journey of conscience. How do we live, Kingsolver asks, and with what consequences, as we hurtle toward the abyss in these times of epic planetary transformation? And make no mistake about it, the stakes are that high…One of the gifts of a Kingsolver novel is the resplendence of her prose. She takes palpable pleasure in the craft of writing, creating images that stay with the reader long after her story is done.
—Dominique Browning
The New York Times
Climate change, for every good and topical reason, headlines Barbara Kingsolver's marvelous eighth novel. But not to be undersold are its characters, rendered so believably and affectionately, they warm the atmosphere on their own…Dellarobia Turnbow is…as delightful and sympathetic a heroine as a reader could custom order…This is fiction rich in empathy, wit and science. Like the butterflies that astonish Feathertown, Kingsolvian gifts are "fierce and wondrous," "colors moving around like fire."
—Elinor Lipman
Publishers Weekly
With her powerful new novel, Kingsolver (The Lacuna) delivers literary fiction that conveys an urgent social message. Set in a rural Tennessee that has endured unseasonal rain, the plot explores the effects of a bizarre biological event on a Bible Belt community. The sight that young wife and mother Dellarobia Turnbow comes upon—millions of monarch butterflies glowing like a “lake of fire” in a sheep pasture owned by her in-laws—is immediately branded a miracle, and promises a lucrative tourist season for the financially beleaguered Turnbows. But the arrival of a research team led by sexy scientist Ovid Byron reveals the troubling truth behind the butterflies’ presence: they’ve been driven by pollution from their usual Mexican winter grounds and now face extinction due to northern hemisphere temperatures. Equally threatening is the fact that her father-in-law, Bear, has sold the land to loggers. Already restless in her marriage to the passive Cub, for whom she gave up college when she became pregnant at 17, unsophisticated, cigarette-addicted Dellarobia takes a mammoth leap when she starts working with the research team. As her horizons expand, she faces a choice between the status quo and, perhaps, personal fulfillment. Spunky Dellarobia is immensely appealing; the caustic view she holds of her husband, in-laws, and neighbors, the self-deprecating repartee she has with her best friend Dovey, and her views about the tedium of motherhood combined with a loving but clear-eyed appraisal of her own children invest the narrative with authenticity and sparkling humor. Kingsolver also animates and never judges the uneducated, superstitious, religiously devout residents of Feathertown. As Dellarobia flees into a belated coming-of-age, which becomes the ironic outcome of the Monarchs’ flight path to possible catastrophe in the collapse of a continental ecosystem, the dramatic saga becomes a clarion call about climate change, too lucid and vivid for even skeptics to ignore. 8-city author tour. One-day laydown. Agent: Frances Goldin, Goldin Literary Agency (Nov. 5)
Starred Review - Booklist
"Drawing on both her Appalachian roots and her background in biology, Kingsolver delivers a passionate novel on the effects of global warming."
People Magazine
"Spirituality, a troubled marriage, global warming…Kingsolver’s latest is a bold mélange, but it works."
Booklist (starred review)
“Drawing on both her Appalachian roots and her background in biology, Kingsolver delivers a passionate novel on the effects of global warming.”
Library Journal
Dellarobia Turnbow is in a perpetual state of fight or flight. Married at 17 to kind, dull Cub, she finds even the satisfaction of motherhood small consolation for the stultifying existence on her in-laws' struggling Tennessee sheep farm. When a fluke of nature upends the monotony of her life, Dellarobia morphs into the church's poster child for a miracle, an Internet phenomenon, and a woman on the verge of unexpected opportunity as scientists, reporters, and ecotourists converge on the Turnbow property. Orange Prize winner Kingsolver (The Lacuna) performs literary magic, generously illuminating both sides of the culture wars, from the global-warming debate to public eduction in America. It's a joy to watch Dellarobia and her precocious son, Preston, blossom under the tutelage of entomologist Ovid Byron. VERDICT Like E.O. Wilson in his novel Anthill, Kingsolver draws upon her prodigious knowledge of the natural world to enlighten readers about the intricacies of the migration patterns of monarch butterflies while linking their behavior to the even more fascinating conduct of the human species. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/12.]—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL
Kirkus Reviews
A young woman discovers her rural Tennessee community has been invaded by monarch butterflies in this effective tear-jerker cum environmental jeremiad from Kingsolver (The Lacuna, 2009, etc.). At 17, English honor student Dellarobia thought she would escape a future of grim rural poverty by attending college. Instead, she got pregnant and married. Now 27, feeling stifled by the responsibility of two young children she loves and a husband she tolerates, Dellarobia is heading to her first adulterous tryst when she happens upon a forested valley taken over by a host of brilliant orange butterflies that appear at first like a silent fire. She skips the tryst, but her life changes in unexpected ways. Soon after, Dellarobia leads her sweet if dim husband, Cub, to the butterflies, and they become public knowledge. The butterflies have landed in Tennessee because their usual winter habitat in Mexico has been flooded out. The local church congregation, including Dellarobia's mother-in-law, Hester, embraces the butterflies' arrival as a sign of grace. Influenced by her beloved preacher, usually antagonistic Hester (a refreshingly complex character) becomes a surprising ally in convincing Dellarobia's father-in-law not to cut down the forest for much-needed cash, although she is not above charging tourists, who arrive in increasing numbers to view the spectacle. Soon, a handsome black scientist with a Caribbean accent has set up in her barn to study the beautiful phenomena, which he says may spell environmental doom. Dellarobia is attracted to the sophisticated, educated world Dr. Byron and his grad school assistants represent. When she takes a job working with the scientists, the schisms in her already troubled marriage deepen. Yet, she is fiercely defensive against signs of condescension toward her family and neighbors; she really goes after a guy whose list of ways to lower the carbon footprint--"bring your own Tupperware to a restaurant," "fly less"--have no relevance to people trying to survive economically day-by-day. One of Kingsolver's better efforts at preaching her politics and pulling heartstrings at the same time.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062124272
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/04/2013
Pages:
436
Sales rank:
48,823
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain's Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
April 8, 1955
Place of Birth:
Annapolis, Maryland
Education:
B.A., DePauw University, 1977; M.S., University of Arizona, 1981
Website:
http://www.kingsolver.com

Read an Excerpt

Flight Behavior


By Barbara Kingsolver

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Barbara Kingsolver
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-212426-5


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Measure of a Man


A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise. Innocence was no part of this. She knew her own recklessness and marveled, really, at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace. The shame and loss would infect her children too, that was the worst of it, in a town where everyone knew them. Even the teenage cashiers at the grocery would take an edge with her after this, clicking painted fingernails on the counter while she wrote her check, eying the oatmeal and frozen peas of an unhinged family and exchanging looks with the bag boy: She's that one. How they admired their own steadfast lives. Right up to the day when hope in all its versions went out of stock, including the crummy discount brands, and the heart had just one instruction left: run. Like a hunted animal, or a racehorse, winning or losing felt exactly alike at this stage, with the same coursing of blood and shortness of breath. She smoked too much, that was another mortification to throw in with the others. But she had cast her lot. Plenty of people took this way out, looking future damage in the eye and naming it something else. Now it was her turn. She could claim the tightness in her chest and call it bliss, rather than the same breathlessness she could be feeling at home right now while toting a heavy laundry basket, behaving like a sensible mother of two.

The children were with her mother-in-law. She'd dropped off those babies this morning on barely sufficient grounds and it might just kill her to dwell on that now. Their little faces turned up to her like the round hearts of two daisies: She loves me, loves me not. All those hopes placed in such a precarious vessel. Realistically, the family could be totaled. That was the word, like a wrecked car wrapped around a telephone pole, no salvageable parts. No husband worth having is going to forgive adultery if it comes to that. And still she felt pulled up this incline by the hand whose touch might bring down all she knew. Maybe she even craved the collapse, with an appetite larger than sense.

At the top of the pasture she leaned against the fence to catch up on oxygen, feeling the slight give of the netted woven wire against her back. No safety net. Unsnapped her purse, counted her cigarettes, discovered she'd have to ration them. This had not been a thinking ahead kind of day. The suede jacket was wrong, too warm, and what if it rained? She frowned at the November sky. It was the same dull, stippled ceiling that had been up there last week, last month, forever. All summer. Whoever was in charge of weather had put a recall on blue and nailed up this mess of dirty white sky like a lousy drywall job. The pasture pond seemed to reflect more light off its surface than the sky itself had to offer. The sheep huddled close around its shine as if they too had given up on the sun and settled for second best. Little puddles winked all the way down Highway 7 toward Feathertown and out the other side of it, toward Cleary, a long trail of potholes glinting with watery light.

The sheep in the field below, the Turnbow family land, the white frame house she had not slept outside for a single night in ten-plus years of marriage: that was pretty much it. The wide screen version of her life since age seventeen. Not including the brief hospital excursions, childbirth related. Apparently, today was the day she walked out of the picture. Distinguishing herself from the luckless sheep that stood down there in the mud surrounded by the deep stiletto holes of their footprints, enduring life's bad deals. They'd worn their heavy wool through the muggy summer and now that winter was almost here, they would be shorn. Life was just one long proposition they never saw coming. Their pasture looked drowned. In the next field over, the orchard painstakingly planted by the neighbors last year was now dying under the rain. From here it all looked fixed and strange, even her house, probably due to the angle. She only looked out those windows, never into them, given the company she kept with people who rolled plastic trucks on the floor. Certainly she never climbed up here to check out the domestic arrangement. The condition of the roof was not encouraging. Her car was parked in the only spot in the county that wouldn't incite gossip, her own driveway. People knew that station wagon and still tended to think of it as belonging to her mother. She'd rescued this one thing from her mother's death, an unreliable set of wheels adequate for short errands with kids in tow. The price of that was a disquieting sense of Mama still coming along for the ride, her tiny frame wedged between the kids' car seats, reaching across them to ash her cigarette out the open window. But no such thoughts today. This morning after leaving the kids at Hester's, she had floored it for the half mile back home, feeling high and wobbly as a kite. Went back into the house only to brush her teeth, shed her glasses and put on eyeliner, no other preparations necessary prior to lighting out her own back door to wreck her reputation. The electric pulse of desire buzzed through her body like an alarm clock gone off in the early light, setting in motion all the things in a day that can't be stopped.

She picked her way now through churned up mud along the fence, lifted the chain fastener on the steel gate and slipped through. Beyond the fence an ordinary wildness of ironweed and briar thickets began. An old road cut through it, long unused, crisscrossed by wild raspberries bending across in tall arcs. In recent times she'd come up here only once, berry picking with her husband Cub and some of his buddies two summers ago, and it definitely wasn't her idea. She'd been barrel round pregnant with Cordelia and thinking she might be called on to deliver the child right there in the brambles, that's how she knew which June that was. So Preston would have been four. She remembered him holding her hand for dear life while Cub's hotdog friends scared them half to death about snakes. These raspberry canes were a weird color for a plant, she noticed now, not that she would know nature if it bit her. But bright pink? The color of a frosted lipstick some thirteen-year old might want to wear. She had probably skipped that phase, heading straight for Immoral Coral and Come-to-Bed Red.

The saplings gave way to a forest. The trees clenched the last of summer's leaves in their fists, and something made her think of Lot's wife in the Bible, who turned back for one last look at home. Poor woman, struck into a pile of salt for such a small disobedience. She did not look back, but headed into the woods on the rutted track her husband's family had always called the High Road. As if, she thought. Taking the High Road to damnation; the irony had failed to cross her mind when she devised this plan. The road up the mountain must have been cut for logging in the old days. The woods had grown back. Cub and his dad drove the all terrain up this way sometimes to get to the little shack on the ridge they used for turkey hunting. Or they used to do that, once upon a time, when the combined weight of the Turnbow men senior and junior was about sixty pounds less than the present day. Back when they used their feet for something other than framing the view of the television set. The road must have been poorly maintained even then. She recalled their taking the chain saw for clearing windfall.

She and Cub used to come up here by themselves in those days, too, for so called picnics. But not once since Cordie and Preston were born. It was crazy to suggest the turkey blind on the family property as a place to hook up. Trysting place, she thought, words from a storybook. And: No sense prettying up dirt, words from a mother-in-law. So where else were they supposed to go? Her own bedroom, strewn with inside out work shirts and a one legged Barbie lying there staring while a person tried to get in the mood? Good night. The Wayside Inn out on the highway was a pitiful place to begin with, before you even started deducting the wages of sin. Mike Bush at the counter would greet her by name: How do, Mrs. Turnbow, now how's them kids? The path became confusing suddenly, blocked with branches. The upper part of a fallen tree lay across it, so immense she had to climb through, stepping between sideways limbs with clammy leaves still attached. Would he find his way through this or would the wall of branches turn him back? Her heart bumped around at the thought of losing this one sweet chance. Once she'd passed through, she considered waiting. But he knew the way. He said he'd hunted from that turkey blind some seasons ago. With his own friends, no one she or Cub knew. Younger, his friends would be.

She smacked her palms together to shuck off the damp grit and viewed the corpse of the fallen monster. The tree was intact, not cut or broken by wind. What a waste. After maybe centuries of survival it had simply let go of the ground, the wide fist of its root mass ripped up and resting naked above a clay gash in the wooded mountainside. Like herself, it just seemed to have come loose from its station in life. After so much rain upon rain this was happening all over the county, she'd seen it in the paper, massive trees keeling over in the night to ravage a family's roof line or flatten the car in the drive. The ground took water until it was nothing but soft sponge and the trees fell out of it. Near Great Lick a whole hillside of mature timber had plummeted together, making a landslide of splintered trunks, rock and rill. People were shocked, even men like her father-in-law who tended to meet any terrible news with "That's nothing," claiming already to have seen everything in creation. But they'd never seen this and had come to confessing it. In such strange times, they may have thought God was taking a hand in things and would thus take note of a lie.

The road turned up steeply toward the ridge and petered out to a single track. A mile yet to go, maybe, she was just guessing. She tried to get a move on, imagining that her long, straight red hair swinging behind her might look athletic, but in truth her feet smarted badly and so did her lungs. New boots. There was one more ruin to add to the pile. The boots were genuine calfskin, dark maroon, hand-tooled uppers and glossy pointed toes, so beautiful she'd nearly cried when she found them at Second Time Around while looking for something decent for Preston to wear to kindergarten. The boots were six dollars, in like new condition, the soles barely scuffed. Someone in the world had such a life, they could take one little walk in expensive new boots and then pitch them out, just because. The boots weren't a perfect fit but they looked good on, so she bought them, her first purchase for herself in over a year, not counting hygiene products. Or cigarettes, which she surely did not count. She'd kept the boots hidden from Cub for no good reason but to keep them precious. Something of her own. In the normal course of family events, every other thing got snatched from her hands: her hairbrush, the TV clicker, the soft middle part of her sandwich, the last Coke she'd waited all afternoon to open. She'd once had a dream of birds pulling the hair from her head in sheaves to make their red nests.

Not that Cub would notice if she wore these boots, and not that she'd had occasion. So why put them on this morning to walk up a muddy hollow in the wettest fall on record? Black leaves clung like dark fish scales to the tooled leather halfway up her calves. This day had played in her head like a movie on round-the-clock reruns, that's why. With an underemployed mind clocking in and out of a scene that smelled of urine and mashed bananas, daydreaming was one thing she had in abundance.

The price was right. She thought about the kissing mostly, when she sat down to manufacture a fantasy in earnest, but other details came along, setting and wardrobe. This might be a difference in how men and women devised their fantasies, she thought. Clothes: present or absent. The calfskin boots were a part of it, as were the suede jacket borrowed from her best friend, Dovey, and the red chenille scarf around her neck, things he would slowly take off of her. She'd pictured it being cold like this, too. Her flyaway thoughts had not blurred out the inconveniences altogether. Her flushed cheeks, his warm hands smoothing the orange hair at her temples, all these were part and parcel. She'd pulled on the boots this morning as if she'd received written instructions.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. Copyright © 2012 by Barbara Kingsolver. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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