Thursday, May 29, 2014


Title: Flight Behavior
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: November 6, 2012
Genres: Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 3/5


Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.


The book summary for Flight Behavior, as well as the first part of the story, truly made me look forward to an unusual and interesting read. I was a bit disappointed when the unusual turned out to be the day to day life of Dellarobia Turnbow and her semi-impoverished family. Fortunately for me, the interesting factor remained in all the information concerning the life cycle and migration habits of the Monarch butterfly.

Dellarobia, the main character, is an unhappy mother of two who yearns for a more fulfilling life. She satisfies this yearning through illicit affairs, until she has a spiritual experience courtesy of an extraordinary phenomenon in the valley behind their house. Can this enlightenment and the upheaval that follows truly cure Dellarobia's discontent?

Although I found this book a bit depressing and unnecessarily full of lengthy conversations, it is filled with beautiful descriptive prose and contains some fascinating, well-researched information about the Monarch butterfly as well as global warming. Fortunately the dialogue, especially that between Dellarobia and her best friend, Dovey, is always lively, witty and full of laugh-out-loud humor.

The other positive point about this book is that two of the characters, Dellarobia and her mother-in-law, Hester, show remarkable and realistic growth both in attitude and, in Dellarobia's case, also ambition. 

Cub, Dellarobia's husband, is a true salt-of-the-earth kind of character. Unfortunately, however, he seems to be against progress and is always, depressingly, ready to accept defeat. His father, a stubborn old farmer, is even more annoyingly stagnant. At first Hester, Cub's mother, appears to be the stereotypically harsh, unrelenting mother in law. Her personality develops throughout the story, though, and toward the end shows more depth and sensitivity.

The insensitivity of the sensation-seeking media is balanced by the passion that conservationists, environmental scientists, and nature loving organizations have for maintaining the earth and its natural resources.

Flight Behavior is the kind of book that one should read at leisure. It would definitely be a highly stimulating read for those who have a genuine interest in nature.

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Barbara Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, Maryland in 1955 and grew up in Carlisle in rural Kentucky. When Kingsolver was seven years old, her father, a physician, took the family to the former Republic of Congo in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her parents worked in a public health capacity, and the family lived without electricity or running water.

After graduating from high school, Kingsolver attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana on a music scholarship, studying classical piano. Eventually, however, she changed her major to biology when she realized that "classical pianists compete for six job openings a year, and the rest of [them:] get to play 'Blue Moon' in a hotel lobby." She was involved in activism on her campus, and took part in protests against the Vietnam war. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1977, and moved to France for a year before settling in Tucson, Arizona, where she would live for much of the next two decades. In 1980 she enrolled in graduate school at the University of Arizona, where she earned a Master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Kingsolver began her full-time writing career in the mid 1980s as a science writer for the university, which eventually lead to some freelance feature writing. She began her career in fiction writing after winning a short story contest in a local Phoenix newspaper.

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