This is the book club selection for January 2014. I am on page 410
and the book ends on page 436. Ms. Kingsolver has backed herself,
or us, into a corner for the ending of this book. I don’t want to
finish it until I figure out the ending!
Reader, spoiler alerts could follow–
Dellarobia is a young mother, in her late twenties, with two little
kids–Preston, 5 and Cordelia, 2. They are sweet and funny little
kids and Kingsolver wastes no words in letting us see just what’s
involved in raising them. The loneliness of, ironically, being with
them all day, the way Cheerios take over your life . . .
Dellarobia and her husband, Cub, live on his parents’ farm in
Tennessee—the old homestead. Times are not good, the bank
is pressing foreclosure on farm equipment debt, and the old
man is thinking of letting a logging company come in to clear
the mountain. This invites flooding and erosion, the ruin of
the farmland below. Both families fall behind in their bills slowly,
month by month.
In a surprising turn of events, millions of monarch butterflies come
to roost on their farmland. And because this has never happened
before, some attribute it to global warming. Soon entomologists
arrive, and the leader is a handsome smooth talking man from
St. Thomas named Ovid. He is especially kind to little Preston
who is suddenly wide-eyed and interested in the wonders of the
monarch butterflies, wanting to know everything about them.
Kingsolver deftly handles the monarch situation—bringing in
both the global warming facets as well as the disbelief which
the local farmers have in such newfangled theories. When
tourists swarm to the farm to see the butterflies, ecology
groups follow and there is an amusing section in the book where
a man tries to convince Dellarobia to leave “less of a footprint”
on this earth. Most of the suggestions fall flat in a life with
no computer, no purchase of bottled water, no visits to
restaurants. It is suggested that she purchase second hand
clothes and items—which is all she ever buys anyway, etc.
Life is one hardscrabble day after another, with little hope of
raising their sights toward a better life. In one painful chapter
Dellarobia and Cub do their Christmas shopping at the Dollar Store.
Dellarobia is unsettled. She had been a good student in high school,
had planned to attend college, but an unexpected pregnancy changed
her life. She and Cub married when she was seventeen. The baby
was stillborn. Cub is a good man, if passive, but Dellarobia wonders if
this is all life has to offer. In fact, when the book opens, she is running
away to meet a man, but is deterred by the butterfly sight.
Ovid offers Dellarobia a job helping the other grad students with the
butterfly research work and suddenly she’s earning thirteen dollars
an hour. She pays some of the back bills, and secretly opens her own
savings account. When the butterflies migrate in a month or so, her
job will end.
Feathertown, their hometown, offers nothing essentially in the way of
employment. A Walmart store has effectively closed down the former
local stores—hardware, drugstore, fabric store, etc.
About 20 pages or so ago, when I was reading, Cub and Dellarobia had
a sort of heart to heart talk about whether they should stay together.
You know something is going to come to a head soon. Cub was wounded
and was sideblinded by her unhappiness in the marriage.
In the meantime, D is smitten like a schoolgirl over Dr. Ovid, who is
married, and actually has shown no interest romantically or otherwise.
Still, D thinks of him constantly.
What is one to think? What are Dellarobia’s options? What should she do?
Does “flight behavior” apply to her?
What would you do? Does everyone “deserve” happiness? Should she
‘lie in the bed she has made?’ Do marriage vows count for anything? What
about Preston and Cordelia? What is best for them?
Book club tomorrow night! To be continued!!