Barbara Kingsolver’s latest offering is a wakeup call for global warming.
Set in a small town in Appalachia, Dellarobia Turnbow is the feisty main character. Pregnant at 17, she marries a local farm boy and settles into a claustrophobic decade with two young children, a loyal but dim-witted husband, and critical in-laws struggling with a failing sheep farm on which all the Turnbows’ economic future depends.
On her way to a clandestine meeting at a hunting shack on the Turnbows’ property, Dellarobia is stopped in her tracks by a sight that she can only describe as “trees on fire.” Later she realizes they are millions of Monarch butterflies.
The butterfly phenomena attracts the attention of Dr. Byron, a noted biologist on Monarch behavior. He believes their migration to an area that will eventually freeze and kill them is a sign of environmental disaster, and he intends to document their extinction.
The tall, smart, good-looking doctor attracts Dellarobia, and she decides to help with his research, a rare beacon in the drudgery of her life.
Kingsolver’s books (“The Poisonwood Bible” and “The Lacuna”) are normally character-centered rather than plot-oriented, but even for Kingsolver this story has a very slow start. Her background in biology takes center stage as she describes the scientific methods that Dr. Byron and his crew use to study the butterflies.
At times the novel comes off as more of a soapbox rendition of Kingsolver’s views, loosely disguised as a novel. Nonetheless, her characters are compelling, and the story comes to a satisfying conclusion.
(Mary Miller owns Turtle Town Books & Gifts in Nisswa.)