Book Review: Flight Behavior

My book club choice was Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Flight Behavior.

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I selected this book because Barbara Kingsolver wrote what might be my favorite book, The Poisonwood Bible, and the book that introduced me to the wealth of contemporary literature, The Bean Trees. I know that Bestie C enjoyed her books as well. So, I picked up 3 copies and sent them off.

Flight Behavior follows Dellarobia, a young mother and wife from Appalachian Tennessee, after she finds a large migrating colony of monarch butterflies at the top of her in-laws’ property. Dellarobia is a smart woman who feels trapped by her overbearing in-laws and her husband’s overly pleasing demeanor. She was supposed to get out, go to college, and never look back at the poor town she came from where she no longer had any family. But then, she got pregnant, married young, and didn’t try to leave again. The outlook is quite bleak when the butterflies arrive and attract all kinds of attention that the young family isn’t quite prepared for. Why’d they come to Tennessee? Was this a blessing or a curse?

With the arrival of a research team and an opportunity to intern with them, Dellarobia starts to find the answers to her questions and answers to the questions she hasn’t dared to ask yet.

This story started off a little slowly and a little sadly. But the more I got to know Dellarobia, her precocious son Preston, and her best friend, Dovey, the more I was enjoying myself. Dellarobia has a snarky side that makes sharp observations and tries for irony even though her family doesn’t appreciate her wit or humor. Preston keeps Dellarobia excited about life and learning, and Dovey keeps Dellarobia laughing, even though Dovey has no understanding of how poor Dellarobia and her family really are. I liked seeing Dellarobia develop from a bitter and self-pitying to ambitious and goal-oriented.

I also enjoyed learning a little bit about the monarchs and their migration patterns. It was interesting to get so much information from a novel, which is a testament to how much research Ms. Kingsolver did to make her story believable. I not only learned about monarch butterflies, but I also came to understand how poor some families in America are. Bestie C nailed it right on the head when thinking of her hometown: “There, they have the luxury to think about the future, and in Dellarobia’s town there are so many who are just trying to get through each day.” It’s a story about our consumption of the environment, humans v. animals; humans v. humans.

I am so happy I stuck with this book. Though it was a little long, it was very much worth it at the very Barbara Kinsolver-like  end.

I give this book a 3.5/5.


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