Written by Barbara Kingsolver
Reviewed by Pat Pointer, WID Web Assistant and Theme Administrator for the Institute’s Systems Biology research group
“Although a work of fiction, Barbara Kingsolver’s 2012 novel Flight Behavior poked a hole in my ‘institutional bubble.’ When surrounded by so many forward-thinking, interdisciplinary colleagues at WID, I sometimes forget that the world at-large does not necessarily sift through scientific information the same way scientists do. Flight Behavior reminded me that what passes as incontrovertible evidence and a call to action in this “bubble” may not matter if it is sociologically or economically unpalatable to portions of society.
The story follows a young mother in Appalachia who witnesses an environmental phenomenon involving monarch butterflies and the consequences it has for her family, town and larger world. Touching on educational, societal, environmental and economic issues, this was an easy read on the surface but raised some serious questions about how scientists see their work versus how a non-scientific community evaluates (and possibly discards) their findings. It also examines the media’s relationship to public consumption of scientific fact (or lack thereof).
Barbara Kingsolver has a biology background and started her career as a science writer. She did extensive fieldwork alongside scientists to gain in-depth knowledge of the monarch butterfly, its migration patterns and the environmental factors affecting its habitat while crafting her story. Her ability to create likeable, complex and flawed characters like her earlier work The Poisonwood Bible kept me engaged while exploring the overarching theme that one person’s idea of a ‘miracle’ could ultimately be another person’s ‘disaster.'”