Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Review: Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Fiction, adult
You might like this book if you're a fan of Kingsolver's work, you are interested in stories involving climate change, or stories where women seek to change their lives.

I listened to the audiobook read by the author. Her voice was slow and soothing and her pronunciation was lovely. I saw her at the National Cathedral when she was touring to support this book, and the woman Kingsolver enchanted me. I was moved by her presentation. I appreciated what she said about the creative process and how to make beautiful things.

I give this book 3 stars on goodreads on the strength of Kingsolver's beautiful language and ability to transport me to where the story takes place, but in the end, this story frustrated me.

Unfortunately for me, this book felt a bit like JK Rowling's A Casual Vacancy. The author used her considerable skill and influence to basically just chew us all out about a pet cause. Now, as a writer, she gets to do that, but I don't really enjoy an entire book of being chided about the state of climate change. Especially when it is couched inside kind of a tired old story: the restless homemaker (Dellarobia), smarter and more interesting than everyone around her, but underappreciated and living a life far from her dreams, gets turned on to the larger world by an exotic guy with an accent, then leaves everything behind for bigger and better things.

It's a tempting storyline, because most of us live regular lives and wonder if we are missing out, big time. I've wondered myself. And I love the idea of bigger and better things. I also like the idea of being good stewards over the earth we've been given to care for. But there are better ways to get this message across to me. There are ways to spin a story, even one with moral imperative, that don't involve self-pity, guilt-tripping and regret for the relentless, sometimes boring work of simple family life.

In the course of the story, the author seems to seek to portray the working and farming folks of America as wholly dull, uninformed and unenlightened, and I didn't like that. There was one moment where she was maybe going to acknowledge that Cub's practical knowledge of how to live the life in which he was settled was admirable and allow him to show some quiet intelligence about the problems he would daily encounter,  but sigh, no, in the end, Cub was still a lumbering dullard. I wish Cub would have been given just a little more heroic shading for being the guy who shows up and gets the job done. I know, I know. He wasn't Dellarobia's match and could never satisfy her mind, but there are other storylines that could have ended up edifying the entire family instead of tearing it apart.

And so, I've proved that I have my own pet cause. We all do. It's okay. This is my second Kingsolver disappointment but I still adored Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, so I'll keep on working through her catalogue to find the gems that sparkle for me. I know that AVM has some of the same themes and the same moral imperative, so what's the diff? Maybe it's because that book was just Ms. Kingsolver's own experience. It felt authentic to me.

This one felt like an old Harlequin Romance wrapped up in a science textbook and it just didn't work for me.

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