Reviews: Goldfinch and Flight Behavior

I am loathe to combine reviews. Each book is its own special snowflake and deserves its very own posting, but I am rather behind on this reviewing business. The books have been piling up and instead of letting them go stale in my memory, I’m going to blurt out all my opinions and feelings until we are nice and caught up. Plus, these two were reads for my work book club, so I think they complement each other nicely. Savvy? Brilliant.

Flight Behavior and The Goldfinch
Flight Behavior and The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is behemoth. That is not an exaggeration. Clocking in at 771 pages, it is a long novel that doubles as a weapon in precarious situations. I was a little wary of The Goldfinch. Most of the time, contemporary fiction has a tendency to rub me the wrong way. Boy was I wrong.

The story follows the life of a boy, Theo Decker. At the age of thirteen, his life is rocked by incomprehensible tragedy that results in the loss of his mother, a nasty dose of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the general unmooring of the easy New York lifestyle that he knew before. The charm of the novel is in its unraveling of story as Theo grows up, so I do not want to say too much in terms of plot. I will say it is a story about art and what it means to people and how it is capable of arresting one’s heart. It is also about the fluidity of friends and family, criminal underworlds, and the ache of love. It is something of a coming of age tale or perhaps a “coming to terms” tale would be a more appropriate description.

Tartt’s language and commitment to such a winding story makes it a compelling read. It did not win the Pulitzer Prize for nothing, I assure you. The language is beautiful: looping sentences full of poetry and universal truths. Also the story itself is full of intrigue, equal parts coming of age, action, mystery, and romance. The novel is so deeply full. It is impressive that it was woven with such skill over so very many pages. I know that some people differ in their opinions of this novel, but I recommend it. As the first work I’ve read by Tartt, the bar is rather high for her other books. It is an excellent read.

Next,  I would like to discuss Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, another author I have never read before. This book starts slow, so slow in fact that I was ready to give up on it just a few pages in, but I implore you. Do not give up! This is a wonderful novel. It’s just on a slow simmer.

Dellarobia Turnbow, Flight Behavior‘s protagonist, is unhappy with her lot in life. Having gotten pregnant and married at seventeen, she dreams of more than the humdrum life on her in-laws failing farm with her husband and two children in rural Tennessee.

I get it. That sounds like a wretched story. In fact, it’s not at all the kind of story I usually read. It is so far from my current world. Dellarobia is under-educated, but curious in a way most people in her town are not. She is something of a local wild card. Della rues the fact she was not able to go to college and “escape” this kind of lifestyle. While she is full of daydreams, it is also clear she is a great mom and cares deeply about her children. But, as anyone can understand, she desires more and often goes to escapist lengths, bordering on adultery (but never quite there), to get a taste of it.

The more comes in the form of science and what she first interprets as a “lake of fire.” I will not go into to much detail here because the unfurling of the phenomenon Della witnesses that keeps her from her ruin is part of the novel’s charm. I will say there are scientists and a natural phenomenon and some threat to said phenomenon. This book is surprisingly informative about climate science in a way that is not just interesting but very engaging. It allows you to see Earth’s disastrous shifts through the eyes of laymen and those it affects most.

The clash between Dellarobia’s world and this one wholly foreign to her is fascinating to witness. It affects her view of her world and what she must do, showing just how far a little knowledge and the willingness to learn can push a person. It is a novel at times funny, exasperating, informative, and sharp the follows a journey of self-discovery and an awakening about the state of the world. Kingsolver writes Dellarobia’s voice so clearly at times it feels as if she is perched Iat your shoulder, simply having a chat. It is a good novel, if not slightly different from what you may be accustomed to. If you get the chance, pick it up!

That is all for now.

Until next time!


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