Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

“There were two worlds here, behaving as if their own was all that mattered.”


Despite the fact that we have not seen the sun in months, spring is in the air and that means it is time for the first Greendale Reads book discussion of 2013.  Our title this month was Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

Flight Behavior is one of those books were you say, “Let me briefly tell you what it is about,” and then talk for ten minutes in some convoluted fashion trying to explain what this book is all about.

Let me briefly tell you what Flight Behavior is about.  A rural Tennessee woman named Dellarobia Turnbow discovers that the monarch butterflies who normally winter in Mexico are roosting on her family land thus creating additional tension between herself, her husband, her son, her relatives and the surrounding town and people.

Now let me briefly tell you what Flight Behavior is really about.  Science stressed by global warming,; the lifespan of a monarch butterfly and their journey both from birth to death and from one haven to another;  low self esteem;  marriage;  child rearing;  coming of age;  scientist as superman;  Tennessee as a sense of place; and the role of religion in everyday life.

The central character of Flight Behavior is Dellarobia Turnbow who starts out the book hiking to an illicit affair in order to spark up her life which has been deaden by her marriage and her in-laws.  To her great surprise, she not only discovers the butterfly colony but she because a media darling when it looks like they can use her for sound bites that swing from religious miracle to suicide.  Dellarobia is a delightful character to spend a book with.  She can be both depressingly hostile, self-deprecating, and funny as she wants with her rapier wit and catty observations about everything.

Perhaps Dellarobia’s strongest characteristic is also the one that she and others do not recognize.  Her potential.  While all around her in this book the issue of the environmental collapse is crucial, my goal was to stick with the novel long enough to find out whether this sympathetic character would recognize her abilities and escape or drown in a sea of unfulfilled expectations.

I won’t tell.  Your book group will as Flight Behavior is one of those literary entertainments that will guarantee a lively discussion.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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