Monday, September 16, 2013

Books: Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior
By Barbara Kingsolver
Copyright 2012
436 pages

Barbara Kingsolver is one of those authors I am supposed to love - but don't. I don't hate her but I have attempted to read several of her books and this is the first one I have actually finished.

It is very good, though as with her other books I did not connect with it on an emotional level. This is more a book for the intellect, I think.

The book was on the bestseller list for a while, as most of Kingsolver's books are.

The story, told in the third person, takes place in the fictional town of Feathertown, TN. Dellarobia is an unhappy wife and mother of two who, after a decade of marriage, would like for something to change. She goes about this in the wrong way at first, looking for passion outside the marriage.

On her way to a secret tryst in a shack on the family farm, she stumbles upon a magnificent sight that forces her to rethink her entire life. Monarch butterflies have settled in the valley on the family's acreage - millions of them. Instead of flying to Mexico as they have in the past, for whatever reason the butterflies have ended up in Tennessee.

The novel takes on climate change in a rather spooky way - the book seems to foretell the summer we've had here in 2013 - too wet, too cool, too wrong for Virginia's mid-Atlantic climate. Dellarobia's husband, Cub, is a farmer from a farming family - and too much rain, too much of the wrong weather, wrecks the farming community (much as it has done in reality this summer). Her father-in-law wants to log the farm, which would destroy this new butterfly habitat.

The butterflies create a sensation as word spreads, and a scientist, Ovid, comes to study the insects. The novel investigates the differences between science and religion, education and the lack thereof, as well as class and other issues, all in one tidy bundle. However, Kingsolver does not preach nor does she make her characters do handstands to get the points across. Instead she weaves a fine tapestry that, when unfolded, shows us the whole of the issues.

If you already like Kingsolver I imagine you will love this book. If you like to read books about the issues of the day, you will love this book. Based on the reviews, some people will be turned off by the implied environmental lecture - probably the ones who most need to hear it but aren't listening anyway.

And I still don't "love" Kingsolver, but I must admit that she is a fine writer, and after finishing this book I like her better than I did.


  1. I have loved her books and so look forward to reading this one.

  2. I used to LOVE her writing, but then I didn't anymore. I am another one that can't care about a woman who cheats on her husband. That also cheats her children. Hard to care about what happens to her. Didn't like Bridges of Madison County either!

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  4. Starting again... sorry to mess up your comment page...

    Maybe I'm too hardedged or something, but I don't like Kingsolver's writing, either. I have to like some of the characters, or at least care about them. I've tried, mightily to do so.

    I read so much non fiction that this may be the reason. Thanks for an excellent review, by the way. Sorry about the terrible weather where you are. It's very sad when farms are impacted by climate change. I grew up on a tiny farm.


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