It often seems that an MFA in creative writing is a prerequisite for published authors today. However, Barbara Kingsolver has a different educational background fueling her works: Prior to trying her hand at fiction, she majored in biology and then completed a master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Kingsolver’s concern for the earth has never been so palpable—or so passionate—as in her latest novel, Flight Behavior, where global warming causes things to heat up in small-town Tennessee.
Flight Behavior begins with a breathtaking image: On the way to throw her good life away, Dellarobia Turnbow is stopped dead in her tracks when she glimpses a lake of fire up in her family’s hills. Dellarobia believes her vision is a warning from above that she must mend her traitorous heart and put an end to her sinful ways. When the reality of what she has witnessed is revealed, the church announces that they are experiencing a modern-day miracle; but before long, scientists are swooping in to offer a darker, more sinister explanation for what is happening up on the mountain. Dellarobia soon finds herself embroiled in a battle between fact and faith—and her marriage, her family, her standing in the community, as well as her very conception of the world, hang in the balance.
Inspired by actual environmental events in Mexico, Kingsolver uses Flight Behavior as a platform to deftly enrobe the mounting evidence for climate change and its devastating effects in a satisfying narrative cocoon, an example of literary activism at its finest. Though Kingsolver’s agenda is far from subtle, it is a testament to her skill that the story never loses its wa[Sun Mar 9 19:01:03 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. y or its heart, and never seems pedantic. Melding the religious aspects of her breakaway hit, The Poisonwood Bible, with the ecological concerns documented in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, this feels like the book that all of Kingsolver’s previous novels have been leading up to. The end result is a delicate symbiosis between the sacred and the scientific in this richly rewarding novel that will both entertain and incite its readers.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD
Jami Attenberg’s fourth book, The Middlesteins, is a darkly fascinating account of one woman’s battle with overeating. Edie Middlestein has struggled with her weight since childhood and now weighs more than 300 pounds. Diabetic and heading toward late middle age, Edie—who lost her job at a law firm because of her weight—receives more bad news: Richard, her pharmacist husband, is leaving her. Edie’s daughter, Robin, looks after her, although she’s embittered by her duties. Her son, Benny, is married to the gorgeous Rachelle, and their two teens will soon be celebrating their b’nai mitzvah. Despite surgery and her grandchildren’s forthcoming festivities, Edie continues to indulge, adding friction to an already stressed family environment. Attenberg’s timely, unforgettable story—told from shifting points of view—will strike a chord with readers. This is a well-crafted, provocative novel that’s tailor-made for reading groups and certain to spark spirited discussion.
ON THE ROAD TO STARDOM
Lovers of historical fiction will be entranced by The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty’s fascinating account of the Wichita housewife who watches over future silent-film star Louise Brooks on her first trip to New York City. The year is 1922. Louise is 15, gorgeous and ambitious when she travels to New York from her home in Kansas to train with a prominent dance company. Accompanying her is 36-year-old Cora Carlisle, a cautious wife and mother—and Louise’s opposite in every way. Louise isn’t thrilled by the presence of her chaperone, yet a bond develops between the two, and the weeks they pass in each other’s company will be life-changing for both. Cora has her own closely guarded motivations for traveling to New York, and her story proves to be as compelling as that of her movie-star charge. In the decades that follow their pivotal summer, both Cora and Louise will experience triumph and heartbreak. Moriarty’s contrasting heroines embody the changing times, and their differences lend nuance to this richly rewarding narrative.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
In her delightful yet cautionary eighth novel, Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver examines the ways in which global warming impacts a fictional corner of Appalachia. Strong-willed Dellarobia Turnbow lives in the rural hamlet of Feathertown, Tennessee, with her husband, Cub, and their two young children. When she spots an incredible assemblage of monarch butterflies on a nearby mountain, she knows she’s seen something special. The locals think she witnessed a miracle, and the incident is soon picked up by the media. A handsome African-American scientist named Ovid Byron arrives to study the butterflies, and what he discovers about them spells bad news for the natural world even as it places Dellarobia at the heart of a conflict that’s both personal and political. Kingsolver’s latest book has weighty issues at its core, yet it never seems heavy-handed, in part because of its charming cast of small-town characters. It’s a timely, penetrating novel that’s at once entertaining and illuminating—a balance Kingsolver seems to achieve almost effortlessly.
Always beloved, Kingsolver shot into the heavens with her last novel, The Lacuna, a booming best seller that also won the Orange Prize. Said to be her most accessible (but when wasn't she ever thus?), her new work features Dellarobia Turnbow, who dreamed of something bigger than Feathertown, TN, but married young and is now stuck raising kids on a hardscrabble farm. On the way to a rendezvous--her first break with life as it is--Dellarobia comes upon a forested glen filled with silent red fire. Fundamentalists, climate scientists, politicians, and the media mob all come to weigh in fervently on the cause and meaning of this phenomenon, as Dellarobia and her neighbors fend off the invasion. With a 500,000-copy first printing.[Page 76]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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[Page 85]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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. (Nov. 5)[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC