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Barbara Kingsolver on 'Flight Behavior'

Author's biology background influences new book about climate change

Barbara Kingsolver's novels primarily focus on such topics as social justice, the environment and the community. Her latest novel, Flight Behavior, is in the same vein. We recently caught up with the award-winning writer to discuss her new book and the effects of climate change.

See also: Barbara Kingsolver recommends eating local foods.

Q: In your new novel, Flight Behavior, climate change causes an astonishing sight in the woods near Dellarobia Turnbow's Tennessee home. Did studying biology in college and grad school influence your novel writing?

Author Barbara Kingsolver

David Wood

Author Barbara Kingsolver talks about her new novel "Flight Behavior."

A: Although I've had the wild luck to make my living as a novelist, I've always seen the world as a scientist. It's a great niche for me; I love using poetic language to explore questions of science. If this novel were a Greek tragedy, climate change would be the force of the gods that the characters can't control, only cope with.

Q: We learn the story from Dellarobia, not from the scientists who come to investigate. Why is that?

A: I'm fascinated by the frictions between cultures. The cultures that rub elbows here are not just scientific and unscientific but rural and urban — a very topical divide in our country right now. The people most drastically affected by climate change in the United States are farmers — the culture I happen to live in myself — yet they're also the ones least likely to believe in it.

Q: You paint a fairly grim picture of people getting isolated, but your ending offers hope, as well.

A: I wanted to create an ending that was honest, inspiring and surprising. It has hope and disaster rolled into one, because that's the biological truth of the world. It was strange to work on science embedded in fiction, but I loved it. If writing my thesis had been this much fun, I'd have stayed in academia forever!

Also of Interest:

  • Visit the AARP home page every day for tips on keeping healthy and sharp, and great deals.
  • Check out our politics page to discover what our forefathers thought about climate change.