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The novel is a heady exploration of climate change, along with media exploitation and political opportunism that lie at the root of what may be our most urgent modern dilemma.
Set in Appalachia, a region to which Kingsolver has returned often in both her acclaimed fiction and nonfiction, its suspenseful narrative traces the unforeseen impact of global concerns on the ordinary citizens of a rural community.Dellarobia Turnbow is ready for a change of any kind. A mother of young children, trapped in claustrophobic rural poverty, she long ago repressed any ambition or promise of her own. Her husband is a kind but passive man who cedes all decisions to his domineering parents who own the sheep farm where they all live and work.
Dellarobia is on her way up the mountain to a secluded hunting shed when she is stopped in her tracks by what she believes to be a miracle: an entire forested valley alight with cold orange flame. She flees back to her life, keeping her strange secret. The spectacular and freakish eruption of nature summons Dr. Ovid Byron, a scientist who arrives at the farm intent on investigation.
Dellarobia is enthralled by the exotic entomologist and his work. But others in the community, including farmers who have lost crops to the weather’s new extremes, are less receptive to his talk of global climate change and its repercussions for natural systems and human affairs. Everyone in the neighborhood and beyond, from religious fundamentalists to environmentalists bring a point of view for shaping the evidence to suit an agenda.
The ordeal quickly grows beyond the boundaries of family, community and nation, carving its lasting effects on Dellarobia, forcing her to examine everything she has ever trusted as truth.