Up in the Air

New Kingsolver novel takes on climate change

In her long career as a novelist and nonfiction writer, Barbara Kingsolver has never turned her pen away from humanity’s dark turmoil.

Her devastating and beautiful 1998 novel The Poisonwood Bible tells the story of a missionary family that moves from Georgia to the Belgian Congo. Like its ancestor, The Heart of Darkness, the book winds a tale around the emotional and psychological violence inherent when religious fervor knocks skulls with colonialism and its discontents. (It also contains one of the more horrific scenes involving a snake ever to be committed to the page.) Leon Trotsky, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera play major roles in the Virginia-based writer’s 2009 novel The Lacuna, a book that challenges expectations about how a narrator should be and how a story should be told.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, aka climate change’s debutante ball, Kingsolver’s latest book couldn’t be timelier. Set in Appalachia, Flight Behavior takes as its foundation the impact of global concerns on a rural community. Weather extremes, clear-cutting, cyclical rural poverty and a forested valley alight “in a cold orange flame” all combine to make what promises to be one of the best books of 2012. Barbara Kingsolver appears on Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 7pm. $25; $45. 707.546.3600.