Barbara Kingsolver never disappoints. Each book is different
from the last. Each book feeds the reader’s soul in its unique way.
Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver’s riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world. Flight Behavior is arguably Kingsolver’s most thrilling and accessible novel to date, and like so many other of her acclaimed works, represents contemporary American fiction at its finest.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Published by Harper Perennial (June 4, 2013)
Genre: Literary Fiction/Political/Environmental
Format: Paperback, 464 pages
Imagine waking up one morning and stepping outside. Glancing around your back yard or garden you notice orange masses on plants and trees. On closer inspection, you discover a multitude of Monarch butterflies. Where did so many come from?
This question confounds Dellarobia Turnbow. Dellarobia, a 27-year old woman, lives in Feathertown, TN, in Appalachia country. Feathertown is in a rural area where farming and sheep herding are main sources of income. They have failed in keeping the area from economic depression. A flock of human sheep gather in the only church where Pastor Bobby Ogle presides over services. The Feathertown faithful love, revere, and hold Pastor Ogle in high esteem. Feathertown is a repressed community where people still believe God controls the weather. So, He is to blame for last year’s flood and the damage can only be reversed by prayer.
Barbara Kingsolver weaves the migration of the Monarchs and Dellarobia’s life together seamlessly. The theme revolves around our world’s ecology and its threat to our environment. This year the Monarchs experienced an atypical flight behavior when they migrated. Floods, landslides, and fallen trees damaged their usual habitat in Mexico. Their altered flight pattern brought them to Feathertown. But why Feathertown?
Soon a team of scientists and news media are swarming Feathertown. The scientists hope to uncover the why of Feathertown and to save the Monarchs. Needless to say, the townspeople are skeptical. They fear what may be exposed and what may be changed by the hocus pocus of scientists.
In the midst of all that is happening around her, Dellarobia experiences new feelings of her own. While assisting the scientists, Dellarobia feels challenged for the first time in her life. Although she loves her two children and her husband, things inside Dellarobia are changing. She wants to learn, to grow as a woman, to make a difference in her world. Dellarobia wants to flee the confinement of her domestic life. The scientists inspire her. She has never been as inspired by religion as her friends and neighbors.
Kingsolver is an agent of social change. And the social issues addressed in Flight Behavior are woven throughout the book. A slow dialogue develops among urban, rural, academic, and religious minds. References to Scripture is necessary to keep the population relevant to the reader. And all along, Dellarobia is the strong thread connecting both worlds.
Kingsolver develops a character I could not help but love and mentally encourage. Dellarobia fights many battles during this story–her story and that of the Monarchs. All the while, she remains steadfast in her roles as wife and mother. When in the lab, she teaches her son scientific reasoning. He helps in the lab where the Monarch study is held. Dellarobia wants to be more than just a wife in small, rural Feathertown. This desire moves her to the edge of everything she has ever known intellectually. The idea of change emotionally tugs at Dellarobia’s heart. But if she is to achieve anything at all she must fly away and take a new route to start over again.
Flight Behavior is inspirational, hopeful, and accurate in its setting. It is also a powerful statement for our ongoing women’s movement. Barbara Kingsolver is an amazing writer. Visit her website and take a look at what she’s written. I took reading Flight Behavior in a metered manner. It’s not a short book, and there were parts I wanted to savor and allow to become a part of my soul. Then I could move on to the next pages.
Barbara Kingsolver was born in 1955, and grew up in rural Kentucky. She earned degrees in biology from DePauw University and the University of Arizona, and has worked as a freelance writer and author since 1985. At various times in her adult life she has lived in England, France, and the Canary Islands, and has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico, and South America. She spent two decades in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to southwestern Virginia where she currently resides.
Her books, in order of publication, are: The Bean Trees (1988), Homeland (1989), Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike (1989), Animal Dreams (1990), Another America (1992), Pigs in Heaven (1993), High Tide in Tucson (1995), The Poisonwood Bible (1998), Prodigal Summer (2000), Small Wonder (2002), Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands, with photographer Annie Griffiths Belt (2002), Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (2007), and The Lacuna (2009). She served as editor for Best American Short Stories 2001. Her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages, and have been adopted into the core literature curriculum in high schools and colleges throughout the nation. She has contributed to more than fifty literary anthologies, and her reviews and articles have appeared in most major U.S. newspapers and magazines. Click here to view complete bibliography.
Kingsolver was named one the most important writers of the 20th Century by Writers Digest. In 2000 she received the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service…
Connect with the Author: Website