My monthly book club meetings are mostly just me and one of my friends, although occasionally attended by some other peeps, and we constantly reach out to other friends but no one else has seemed to stick. I do wish it were a little bigger and more formal, but I still like it as-is because I get to catch up with my friend who I otherwise probably wouldn’t see much, and we still choose books which gives us something to talk about and I usually end up reading something I otherwise wouldn’t have.
I try really hard to finish the book on time because it’s a great incentive to finishing, and also in seven years I have never NOT finished a book so my streak is very built up in my mind. Anyway, I’m glad I had the incentive this time because otherwise I probably would have abandoned Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.
First let’s talk about the good things. Barbara Kingsolver. I am a fan of hers. The Poisonwood Bible is still one of my faves and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was an inspiring and enlightening food memoir (mostly) about eating local. So I knew I loved her writing and it’s the reason I agreed to read this book even though it seemed kind of boring from the description. The plus is that the writing is still awesome. Character development, awesome. Sense of atmosphere, clear setting, movement of the story even though not a whole lot happened – all that is definitely there. And there’s a ton of symbolism and literary stuff going on if you like that kind of thing. I do like it, and appreciated it, even though I didn’t take the time to fully mull it over or analyze it.
Now here’s the reason I only gave this book two out of five stars: it got preachy like whoa. I expect that (to an extent) in a memoir, but I do NOT like it in my fiction, no thank you. I am pro having a moral or a message in a story or in the background, but in this book there is a CLEAR agenda and at times I felt like I was in a classroom or in environmental church, if that was a thing.
Okay, so I didn’t know the book was about climate change until I had it in my hands and read the inside flap, and I was kind of turned off from the beginning. Now let me say that I am aware of the big problem that is climate change even though I don’t keep up to date with the science, and I avoid politically charged stuff because I hate controversy, and although I guess I understand why it’s controversial (money, etc) I figure that not only is it common sense to take care of the earth, there are plenty of Biblical reasons to do so as well. It’s just the right thing to do, so I try to. I fail a lot, but baby steps, you know? All that to say I’m pretty on board with Kingsolver’s message and I was still turned off by the idea of a whole fiction book about climate change.
This is what she does. There is a main character, Dellarobia, who is a poverty-stricken lady stuck in a marriage (and family, by extension, since she has no family of her own) and a life situation that she never intended to be in, even though she acknowledges that it is of her own making and good things have come of it. She is for the most part ignorant about the wider world apart from her small town in Appalachia. She discovers this phenomenon of an enormous colony of monarch butterflies that have changed their migration from Mexico to her family’s farmland, and at first she is just inspired and overwhelmed by its beauty and it causes her to want to be a better wife/mother/daughter-in-law/etc.
So THEN a scientist shows up to study the butterflies by name of Ovid Byron, and he is extremely likable and caring and earnest and sympathetic to the reader. Dellarobia practically falls in love with him and we are meant to, also. So Ovid Byron becomes Barbara Kingsolver’s mouthpiece for her message, and Dellarobia is the willing audience, soaking it all up and learning and changing for the better. It was pretty obvious. There were huge chunks of conversations about ecology and why it was all such a big deal, and I just got tired of it. Plus there was a lot of descriptions of farming and maybe it’s just because I’ve been addicted to the Game of Thrones books lately which are the opposite of this, but I was so ready for it to be done.
And then I was done, and because she’s such a good writer I still had an emotional response and felt sad and hopeful at the same time. And a lot of people really like it, so. Do with that what you will.