"A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-coloured hair who marched uphill to meet her demise. Innocence was no part of this. She knew her own recklessness and marvelled, really, at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace. The shame and loss would infect her children too, that was the worst of it, in a town where everyone knew them. Even the teenage cashiers at the grocery would take an edge with her after this, clicking painted fingernails on the counter while she wrote her check, eyeing the oatmeal and frozen peas of an unhinged family and exchanging looks with the bag boy: She's that one ..."
That is the powerful opening of Barbara Kingsolver's new novel Flight Behaviour. The book's central character is Dellarobia Turnbow, a young mother impulsively seeking out an affair. "As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house toward a secret tryst she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire."
What Dellarobia takes to be a cautionary miracle gives rise to other explanations from scientists, religious leaders and the media, and brings Appalachian farmers into close contact with journalists, opportunists, sightseers and a biologist with his own stake in the outcome.
"A captivating, topical and deeply human story touching on class, poverty and climate change", Flight Behaviour will be published here in the UK early next month.
Edited to add: Barbara Kingsolver talks about the book in this brief video.