Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

I have made no secret of my admiration for the life and work of Barbara Kingsolver.  My review of The Lacuna edged on over nearly into gushing. So it came as no surprise when I received her latest, Flight Behavior, for Christmas.  As I was steaming along with A Clash of Kings on my new Kindle, I had this beautiful hardback copy in the on-deck circle, and I know I was set with a tremendous start to my 2013 reading.

Here's the rub: I was disappointed.

That's not to say it isn't a fine book; it is. It just wasn't nearly as - well, as everything - as I had come to expect from Kingsolver's work. The best I can put it is similar to what I said of Kingsolver herself after the literary festival in 2011 (when she was working on this book): it was too friendly, too easy, not as bracing as I want. I wasn't challenged by it, and I didn't connect much with the main character though we come from the same people and places.

Dellarobia is a young mom with young children living on her husband's family's farm in East Tennessee.  I know her well. I could have been her. She married in high school after an unexpected pregnancy and now she is restless, unconvinced this life is the one she wants for herself. In her discontent, she hikes into the woods to meet her could-be lover, but before she can get to their meeting place, she encounters a sight so uncommon, so visually miraculous, that she turns back and finds herself launched on a new trajectory. From there, Kingsolver takes us through issues of faith, family, science, and yes, climate change, and there were some lovely, thought-provoking passages.

Here are my favorite short bits:
Words were just words, describing things a person could see. Even if most did not. Maybe they had to know a thing first, to see it. (250)
What if all human effort amounted basically to saving a place for ourselves to park? (317)
She wondered if he also felt the concentrated atmosphere of their aloneness. (317)
Every day she rose and rose to the occasion of this man. (318)
And this on science as a footrace:
People will always be waiting at a particular finish line: journalists with their cameras, impatient crowds eager to call the race, astounded to see the scientists approach, pass the mark, and keep on running. It's a common misunderstanding, he said. They conclude there was no race. As long as we won't commit to knowing everything, the presumption is we know nothing. (351)
And this on God:
...everything else is in motion while God does not move at all.  God sits still, perfectly at rest, the silver dollar at the bottom of the well, the question. (351)
Ultimately, I can't recommend this one as highly as her other work, but I do like that last idea so very much, the idea of God as the question we continually are asking.


  1. Definitely not my favorite of hers either and for similar reasons. She could have made it a far more difficult conversation. But I did love and appreciate the way she presented science and the misunderstandings that we have of it. I think The Lacuna is her most complete work ever and that it will be hard to top.

  2. Loved The Poisonwood Bible but couldn't get beyond the first few chapters of this. Something about the general tone irritated me. Glad I'm not the only one!