I am a fan of Barbara Kingsolver, and I love the subject matter she has chosen for this book. But I did find myself skimming through quite a lot of this one. It seemed that an awful lot could have been edited out and we would still have had a nice novel.
The story centres around a woman who lives on a farm in the Mid-West-ey / Southern-ish area of the US that many Europeans such as myself will probably never visit. She is under thirty with two kids, not much of a social life and a fairly unsatisfactory marriage.
Suddenly, probably due to Global Warming, a group of butterflies decides to settles in her family’s farm. Actually, a group of butterflies is known as a “kaleidoscope of butterflies” but I felt a bit silly saying that. They should migrate to Mexico in the Winter, but this year they did not, they ended up here. Some scientists arrive to study them and to try to work out why.
Our hero, the unusually-named Dellarobia, is exposed to educated and privileged city-folk for the first time. On the whole she likes it, she feels a little beneath them intellectually and in the wider ways of the world, but she finds that she has strengths and the scientists like and respect her.
There are some lovely science bits where biology graduate and ex-scientist Kingsolver explains what could have made the butterflies come to this area, and a long conversation the characters have about Global Warming. My favourite part of the book is when a middle-class know-it-all smarty pants makes some suggestions to working-class poor Dellarobia who hasn’t eaten out in two years and buys everything she doesn’t make or grow herself at the Goodwill store on how she can reduce her carbon footprint by re-using, recycling, driving less, using electricity less and, the punch-line; flying less.
Kingsolver never fails to make me laugh or to make me think. I could have shaved off seventy or so pages from this novel but it was still a joy to read, as all her novels are.