Some of the finest American novels were written at least partly in the hope of effecting moral change. From Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom’s Cabin through The Grapes of Wrath and beyond runs a clear, explicit and brilliant arc of concern with poverty and social injustice. Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour is a worthy new member of that company, its concerns embodied in the vivid characters of a novel written with passion and intelligence. What is new is that her scathingly accurate depictions of societal imbalance are closely interwoven with urgent concern about environmental imbalance – the ongoing catastrophe that no serious writer will be allowed to ignore much longer.
Many reviewers, predictably dismissing Kingsolver as earnest but naive, or scolding her for not knowing where monarch butterflies winter, evidently don’t know how to read a writer so gifted at seeing and portraying both sides of a social dilemma, and so adept at invention based firmly on knowledge of the