I am about two-thirds of the way through the latest Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behaviour, (Faber & Faber), and I can feel myself slowing down as I don’t want it to end – it is just such a good read.
Dellarobbia, a young mother in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee is slightly fed up with her husband and kids and has a major crush on a young local man. Setting off to meet him, hiking into the hills behind the family farm, nervous, reckless, ready to lose everything, she stumbles across a stunning and unnerving sight and her life is changed in ways she couldn’t imagine.
When her husband’s father decides they need to log the hillsides to get some cash, she convinces them that perhaps they should go and look at whatever is up there before they allow the loggers in. The beautiful and terrible marvel of nature causes the scientists to worry – why has this happened? why here? what does this mean about the changing climate? – and most of the locals to celebrate: a miracle has blessed this tiny poor town with media interest, tourists and attention which can be turned to financial advantage.
Dellarobbia rides the choppy waves of all these competing interests, trying to understand all the implications. She is a great character, honest, loving, frustrated – I wonder what will happen in the end and I really do want to know. I think that is something Kingsolver does so well, creating these so-believable characters that you care about and are interested in. The blurb says the book is “a captivating, topical and deeply human story touching on class, poverty and climate change” which sounds grim and worthy, but it really isn’t. Kingsolver has a great lightness of touch and the story is just so interesting and Dellarobbia, and her children Preston and Cordelia, are so well observed that you are charmed and intrigued – just like Dellarobbia is on the hillside.