Monday, June 17, 2013

Flight Behavior

"Unearthly beauty had appeared to her, a vision of glory to stop her in the road."
~Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

Sometimes, seeing is not believing.

Published in 2012, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver is the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a farm wife who lives in Appalachia with her husband, Cub, and their two small children, Cordelia and Preston.  Dellarobia married young--at the age of seventeen--because she got pregnant, which marked the end of her formal education.  One day, as Dellarobia hikes up a mountain to meet someone, she encounters a "forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire".  Dazzled by this vision, and not sure what she's seeing, this remarkable sight affects Dellarobia in a profound way, and marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in her life.

Male Monarch, courtesy of Wikipedia
There is a lot I could say about Flight Behavior--certainly more than I could ever articulate in a short review on my blog.  It's a book about complex subjects, including marriage and family, and the "magic" of science and nature.  Quite simply, though, I relished every page in this exquisite book.  The author has a background in biology, and the science surrounding the monarch butterflies presented in this story, through the work Dr. Ovid Byron and other characters, adds a realistic and fascinating dimension to it.  I learned many things about monarch butterflies in Flight Behavior.  For example, male monarchs have two black spots on their hind wings (click on photo to enlarge).

Flight Behavior is suffused with humanity, humor, and grace.  I love the way that Barbara Kingsolver writes, the way she thinks. She brought me to a place I knew little about, rural Appalachia.  Through her descriptions, I was in the mountains and wet woods, which burst to life through the people, butterflies, and farm animals.  The protagonist, Dellarobia, is real and flawed, but also very likable.    Both sharp and feisty, Dellarobia and her mother-in-law, Hester, are competitive with each other and butt heads quite often.  I wanted Dellarobia to be happier and to reach (at least some of) the potential she relinquished when she got married (I also wanted to extinguish her cigarette cravings).  Dellarobia and her husband shop at second-hand shops not because it's fashionable but because that's all they can afford; they're struggling to make ends meet, and have few possessions (they do not even own Christmas tree ornaments).  But Dellarobia's life is rich in a different sense.  She's a dedicated and caring mother, who awakens the budding scientist in her son, Preston (and will hopefully do the same for her daughter, Cordie, when she's a bit older).
Female Monarch, courtesy of Wikipedia
Although this beautifully written novel centers around a family, it focuses as well on larger, controversial, and contemporary issues, the impact of global warming and climate change on the environment.  I do think we need to think more about the long-term effects of our choices and actions, and care for the earth today.  Flight Behavior is a thought-provoking book that I enjoyed very much, one that I'll continue to think about for a long time.  Interestingly, while I was reading this novel, my sister-in-law, Kristine, was posting on Facebook about monarch butterflies and her milkweed plants.  I want some of these plants for my own garden--I adore monarchs!

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me this book.  For more reviews, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for Flight Behavior.  This was my first book by Barbara Kingsolver, and I'm now very interested in reading The Lacuna, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and other works by this no-longer-new-to-me author.

Your comments are welcomed.


  1. I love Kingsolver's work and I'm kicking myself for not reading this book yet. I need to make the time for it.

  2. I haven't read this author but she sounds so good. Have a great week!

  3. I read this book earlier this year and loved it. I enjoy Kingsolver's writing and that she will take on controversial issues like climate change and the environment. You might like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where she takes on the American food industry.

  4. Read all of them Suko ! I like a lot Barbara Kingslover's books and'll buy this one when it'll we translated in French. I'm happy to know she wrote a new novel.

  5. Superb commentary Suko.

    I have heard really good things about this book. It sounds like it is thought provoking in several different ways.

  6. This sounds very good.

  7. Suffused with humanity, humour, and grace? Now, this sounds like my kind of read.

  8. Thanks for your review. This sounds like a very interesting book.

  9. These butterfllies are beautiful - and I love to watch a graceful butterfly pass me by. Sounds like a faschinating book - a very informative review - thanks. I'm hosting a blogging event you might like to join. Paris in July is now an annual event, bloggers around the world join us for a virtual journey to Paris and France. Pop in to my blog to see what's planned.

    1. Tamara, thank you for stopping by, and for your invitation. I'll take a look at Paris in July. At the end of this month, I'll be reviewing The Summer of France.

  10. If only the monarchs did have a place here in the U.S. to migrate instead of flying all the way further south.

  11. I relished every page too, although I must admit to grieving more for Dellarobia'a position in life than the Monarchs.

  12. I've only read one novel by Kingsolver but I loved it. There are still moments from that novel I remember with a clarity as if I had lived them.

  13. I'm a fan of Barbara Kingsolver's and this book is on my wishlist. It sounds fantastic. I agree, her writing style is wonderful.

  14. Sounds good. I haven't read this author but I've heard alot about her.

  15. Susan, the Monarch caterpillar's are extremely cute! I have never seen another caterpillar this "cartoon" cute. We have loved having our Monarch farm this year and now we are putting in a water source as they are starting to come back around for the flowers. I'll definitely keep you posted.

  16. Many of us have enjoyed your monarch posts. The caterpillars are adorable and quite distinct. I just ordered some tropical milkweed seeds from Butterfly Encounters, and will also check for plants at local nurseries. Thanks for stopping by!

  17. With the coming end of Google readers, I have signed up to follow you by e mail so as not to miss any of your great posts

  18. What a wonderful book review! You certainly made me want to read this book (and finally give this author a try whom I've heard so much about). I love butterflies as well :)

  19. Great review!! One of my favorite novels of all time if Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. I have this newest book on my "to read" list, but haven't gotten to it for whatever reason. I have loved her earlier work, she's a lyrical writer with great messages. I am intrigued that the message of this novel is climate change and the environment - that is right up my ally. I think this book just moved further up on my list!

  20. "exquisite" is the perfect word for Kingsolver's writing - I'm looking forward to reading this latest book!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  21. I have never read anything by this author if you can believe that! This sounds really, really great! Thank you so much for sharing and thank you for posting my Doctor Who giveaway in your sidebar!

    Renee C

  22. I've read some of Kingsolver's nonfiction (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) but none of her novels yet. Maybe I should break that drought with this novel -- you make it sound really great.

  23. I have yet to read something that totally grabbed me like Poisonwood Bible. I'm ready to give this one a shot and hopefully it will capture me from the very first page!

    Rowena Hailey (SEO in Moses Lake)


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