Flight Behavior – Book Review

A small shift between cloud and sun altered the daylight, and the whole landscape intensified, brightening before her eyes. The forest blazed with its own internal flame. “Jesus,” she said, not calling for help, she and Jesus weren’t that close, but putting her voice in the world because nothing else present made sense. – from Flight Behavior –

Dellarobia’s life changed at seventeen when an unplanned pregnancy forced her into marriage…the same year she was orphaned when her mother succumbed to cancer. Despite a miscarriage, she stayed in her marriage to Cub, a man whose life is defined by his parents – the rigid Bear and his opinionated and religious wife, Hester. Now, ten years later, Dellarobia is disillusioned with her life as mom to two young children, barely scraping by on a small sheep farm in Feathertown, Tennessee on the edge of the Appalachian mountains. She longs for a brighter future, a more romantic relationship than the one she has with Cub, and an escape from the poverty and sameness of each day. So one day she heads up the mountain to consummate a tryst with the telephone guy. But instead of discovering love,  Dellarobia finds the trees on the mountain aflame with Monarch butterflies. Believing this to be a message from God, she turns back down the mountain and vows to stay in her marriage and make it work. The butterflies soon become a sensation, bringing a team of scientists to Dellarobia and Cub’s farm and upending the tenuous balance in a family which is living on the edge.

Barbara Kingsolver’s newest novel explores the impact of global warming and the divide between science and religion. Kingsolver lightens these heavy themes with warm hearted, genuine characters and a finely wrought sense of humor balanced by poignancy. Dellarobia is an insightful, smart woman who has been denied an education. She loves her kids. She grapples with her faith. She longs for a life of beauty and meaning. She is one of those characters who a reader can get behind even though she is far from perfect.

Kingsolver lays down a dilemma for Dellarobia:  Should she stay in her life and make it work, or should she take flight? Her journey is  symbolized by that of the butterflies – insects who migrate thousands of miles even though they have never been shown the way. What choices do we have when faced with potential catastrophe and the unknown? How do we determine truth? What factors influence our decisions and beliefs?

I am a huge Kingsolver fan. I love her beautiful prose, her complex characters, her sense of humor, and the relevancy of her themes. I expected to love this book, and it did not disappoint me. Critics of the global warming argument may be put off by the underlying message regarding the dire nature of environmental change, but no one can fault Kingsolver’s imagination and ability to bring to life a set of characters facing one of the most controversial topics facing this generation. It is her skill at character development against the backdrop of nature where Kingsolver shines, and in Dellarobia, she has given her readers a character who is truly memorable.

Highly Recommended.

FTC Disclosure: I was sent this book by the publisher for review on my blog. Thank you to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to share this novel with my readers. Please visit the tour page for links to more reviews.


Barbara Kingsolver is the author of eight works of fiction, including the novels The LacunaThe Poisonwood BibleAnimal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her most recent work of nonfiction is the enormously influential bestsellerAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned literary awards and a devoted readership at home and abroad. In 2000, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Learn more about Barbara Kingsolver at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

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    • zibilee on November 12, 2012 at 07:08

    Though I’ve only read two Kingsolver books, and one was not that wonderful, I would love to read this one and discover the magic that you did. It sounds like this book really packs an emotional punch, and I am glad that you loved it. I need to see how I can get this one!! Very nice review today!!

  1. Thanks for your nice review.
    I’m getting upset with reviews focusing too much on her message and not on the quality of her writing, which you highlighted so well.
    here is my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/10/29/2012-55-review-flight-behavior/

    • Kailana on November 12, 2012 at 12:25

    I am glad you liked this. I am looking forward to reading it at some point. That seems to be how I am with Kingsolver, though. I always have plans to read her but can be slack on actually doing so…

    • Susan on November 13, 2012 at 18:01

    It sounds like this one did not disappoint you. How does it compare with her others? Towards the top, or the bottom?

    • Becca on November 14, 2012 at 13:38

    I am in the middle of this book now, and I think she is doing a wonderful job of marrying the message to the story. This is one of my favorite of her books so far.

    Great review, Wendy. I think you’ve captured the flavor of the book very well. I am also loving the poetic imagery and descriptions.

    • trish on November 14, 2012 at 22:39

    I’m so thrilled you loved it! It sounds like the kind of book that would make me rant about things if I discussed it in a book club setting. Haha.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  2. I just read another review of this one over at Bellezza’s blog, and I simply must try this book! I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and this would be my first foray into Kingsolver’s fiction.

  3. I’m almost through with this one and really loved the story and writing, but I thought it was too long. Glad u enjoyed it.

  4. I’ve read all of BK’s books, with the exception of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Lacuna. I thought this new one was absolutely fabulous. It’s her best so far, don’t you think? I have so many Post-It flags marking favorite passages and find myself still thinking about Dellarobia and the butterflies even though I finished the novel over a week ago. I hope those who might not believe in global warming won’t be put off by the sheer beauty of this novel.

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