Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Flight Behavior: an appreciation

It should be obvious by this point that I think Barbara Kingsolver is the bee's knees. Not only is she a gifted writer but an advocate for the slow food movement and the queen mother of the modern day victory garden/farm return with her nonfiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which her family lives almost entirely off of the contents of their own backyard for the duration of a year with glowing success.

In the last few weeks, I have finished her latest novel, Flight Behavior. As a fiber enthusiast, I took particular delight in this particular Kingsolver publication. The main character, Dellarobia, is the wife of a man whose family is in the wool business. They keep a flock of ewes and there is a chapter early on dedicated to fleecing the flock and preparing the wool. Later, you see the mother-in-law dying wool in bright colors to sell at the local market.

That aside, Flight Behavior takes on global warming when a flock of butterflies shows up to winter in Appalachia instead of Mexico, while also tackling issues of race, class, educational inequality, and familial struggle. Despite its subject matter, the book gives equal value to its liberals and conservatives. Though the liberals get their bittersweet scientific evidence of climate change, perhaps my favorite chapter consists of the low-income conservative Dellarobia giving a snooping liberal tree hugger what-for. The man tries to harp on how "you people" need to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint. I may be a tree-hugging liberal, but let me just say that there is nothing so amusing as a privileged upper middle class citizen getting his come-uppance when he is forced to realize how the poor in this country live, or rather, live without. "Fly less," he suggests with reduced enthusiasm to a poor farmer's wife whose never even seen a commercial airliner in real life. It reminds me of the look I get from just about everyone when they learn that I still use a flip phone that does not receive text messages (though apparently, it will receive them within the next month).

Flight Behavior is the story of two different cultures colliding. It is the story of how the internet has made people less aware of social graces and the need for discretion. It is a story about how people survive and what they need to thrive, and it explains, in its own simple way, what progress offers and when it needs to be reigned in and replaced with the wisedom of an earlier age. It shows how the land can shape you if you let it, how the world effects us even when we don't want to see the change happening before our eyes. It's everything I would expect from Kingsolver with just enough of the unexpected mixed in.

No comments:

Post a Comment