Some fiction isn’t “about” much of anything. Flight Behavior is “about” a lot of things. Climate change is the "big" thing, and it’s considered in terms of the scientific facts and the popular resistance they’ve encountered in many places. Marital and family disharmony is another key element of the novel; Dellarobia is a devoted mother to her two children, but her life is far from what she expected it to be and she’s uncertain of her place in it. However, I felt the novel’s central force was the tension between the two worldviews that seem to characterize 21st-century America--liberal/conservative, red/blue, or whatever shorthand you choose to identify it. That tension is based in differing responses to change, and ultimately, “change”--not just of the environmental variety--is the primary theme of Flight Behavior. Our knowledge of the world and the people who surround us--and even of ourselves--is often incomplete and imperfect, and any bit of new information can force us to reassess everything and engage with the world in a new way.
There’s a great deal going on here. The author’s background in biology informs the scientific elements of the novel, but those elements aren’t conveyed in a manner that feels inauthentic to the story. Kingsolver’s characters are well-developed and complex, and their grappling with the effects of a changing natural world on their lives feels authentic as well. However, what struck me most about Flight Behavior was a sense of empathy and compassion. The novel’s setting is the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee, a conservative, economically-struggling area subject to a fair amount of Southern stereotypes; by endowing Dellarobia with wry humor and just enough self-awareness, Kingsolver refrains from making her characters cheap targets.
Read more of my thoughts at The 3 R's Blog: http://www.3rsblog.com/2012/12/book-talk-flight-behavior-by-barbara-kingsolver-tlc-book-tour.html