From the first chapter, “Man”:
“A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise.”
And so begins FLIGHT BEHAVIOR by Barbara Kingsolver.
It is love at first sight and as Dellarobia opens the curtains on her life (where she’s going, what she’s doing, the pinch of her second-hand cowboy boots) I immediately invest. Everything about her is absolutely real to me. I follow her up the hill; feel the stab of each of her doubts and the thrill of her hopes. I let her cast the colors of everyone in her life without flinching. We’re friends now.
But then this thing happens. She gets halfway to her destination and encounters something unexplainable. An intense orange glow in the trees. A wildfire? No. The sun rising over the hill? No. It’s otherworldly, so frightening and ominous that she deserts her plan and flees to the safety of home.
And … I lost interest.
Despite writing that lifted me from my chair and placed me in another woman’s life (in an instant), writing so authentic to the rural experience and attitudes thereof, I kind of just rolled over, meh, finished the chapter and put the book down.
I am sick of plot. I am bored with mysteries. I have no use for anything paranormal. And if it comes down to me decoding a metaphor for God or death or enlightenment, I’m out. I’ve got plenty of patience for drama, however, and an open mind when it comes to morality, just don’t make me go back up that hill with Della to figure out what the orange glow is and then make it our mission to do something to, with, or about it. Keep telling me about her neighbors, the one with the kids whose names are misspelled. Or her mother-in-law because she reminds me of Frances. Help Della sort out her depressing life while I watch and cheer for her, but let’s not go all Pelican Brief up in here.
Have I become too lazy for literature? I fear I have. Or maybe my vision was clouded by Rules of Civility. The twists and turns of relationships, the coincidences, the revelations, that’s what I want—people doing things to, with, or about each other. Surely, I’m not the only one. It’s possible to execute the 8-point arc without stumbling upon murder, aliens, or hidden treasure, isn’t it?
Can an ordinary life, on paper, hold water? And if not, why am I writing this at all? Existential crisis? Meh.