Top critical review
on 16 August 2017
I feel like BK has a great idea and is capable of solid writing - but gets too attached to her message and then becomes sentimental and verbose, which is odd when she considers herself a scientist. It didn't help that I wasn't keen on the protagonist.
Mirroring the development of Dellarobia (not helped by being portrayed as a "poor white girl" named with such a pretentious title) with the struggles of the butterflies was a good choice. She sounded knowledgeable on the scientific details of the butterflies and climate change ( too much so at times). There was humour to lighten the load ("like a beach vacation minus the beach, and the vacation"). Some characters were portrayed with a range of redeeming features. The picture of a small, farming community struggling with paying the basic bills was harsh and believable.
But ....descriptions were over-long especially where the author wants to share her own thoughts . Too much read like a one-sided lecture. And there was too much sentimentality in the huge changes of D over the course of the book. Pretty quickly she seemed a shallow and unlikeable character, willing to leave her children and run off with a bloke she barely knew. Next minute, she is a competent, intelligent, loving mother who deserves sympathy for her poor start in life and unfortunate fall into an early marriage and her children's "racked sobs that wrenched her will for living". One minute they are dirt-poor ("as if shopping for previously-chewed meals", the next she is sharing the lamb Hester has just given them with Ovid and his wife - assuming they want to spend their time with her family and considering they had been parted for quite a while that is dubious - and then "crammed the leftovers into plastic boxes wedged into the refrigerator" as food is over-flowing! This narrator living in this limited community uses language that is not credible: "wherever she looked she saw their aggregations on the dwindling emergent places ............" For me, this kind of nonsense devalues what the story is meant to be sharing. Likewise, Hester is nasty: but she offers an "excuse" for her frustrations which sits weakly. Preston unsurprisingly shows an interest in science: he is 5 - there is no reason to believe he will follow this through and actually become a "scientist"! He was far too single-minded and serious at 5.
Having read the Lacuna and felt it turgid, despite a lot of good content, I think this is the style of BK. She needs to have a firmer editor!