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Flight Behavior: A Novel by Barbara…

Flight Behavior: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Barbara Kingsolver

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Title:Flight Behavior: A Novel
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Harper (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 448 pages
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Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

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    The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (rockyblanco)
    rockyblanco: Same author but a very different subject.

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Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
Wonderful book. The factual parts about the Monarch butterflies is fascinating and frightening. I enjoy the way she writes and found the characters well-developed and interesting. Definitely worth your time. ( )
  padmacatell | Sep 8, 2014 |
Barbara Kingsolver's latest book opens with Dellarobia Turnbow running up the mountain behind her family home for a short sighted, adulterous tryst that she fully acknowledges will destroy life as she knows it. At age 28, her lifetime has been confined to a small mountain town in rural eastern Tennessee where she is the mother of two young children and the wife of Cub, who is dominated by his own parents. This opening passage of Dellarobia's first flight is aborted by what at first appears to be a fire of biblical proportions on the mountain, but turns out to be butterflies....a mountainside full of butterflies.

With this very metaphorical opening, Kingsolver leads the reader into a fictive exploration of the impact of climate change as well as commentary on social impact of globalization on job strapped American towns. Shortly after Dellarobia discovers the butterflies, it becomes clear that her father-in-law is about to have the remote mountainside logged off to raise cash in order to avoid foreclosure on the entire family farm. She challenges her husband and in-laws to at least take a look at the mountain before having it clear cut, thus leading them to also discover the huge colony of "King Billy" buterflies.

The phenomenon of the butterflies moves the story from a spiritual to community to scientifically loaded event as the news travels. It is a story of both caution and redemption woven with the author's keen insight into her characters. There are many good turns of phrase through out the book. As when reflecting on a mother-daughter pair in the story Dellarobia wonders, "How could two people get the same set of parts and make such different constructions? But then again, there was the raising.....What could a doormat rear but a pair of boots?" (p. 81 hardcover) ( )
  tangledthread | Aug 1, 2014 |
Kingsolver’s novel delves into the looming environmental catastrophe being caused by climate change. It is told through the experience and perspective of a young woman from western Tennessee in the heart of Appalachia. Dellarobia Turnbow is in a barren marriage with a husband she has become increasingly distanced from. Her husband’s family is the source of irritation whose attempts to control the couple are alienating her further. While on a walk to a distant part of the family’s property Dellarobia encounters an astounding site – millions of Monarch butterflies have landed in acres of a forested valley. She reveals this to her family and her church members and soon through the media and internet she and the butterflies become a sensation. Church members think she has discovered a sign from God. The media rushes in to report the event, and Dellarobia’s connection to it, and does so in the most superficial way conceivable, missing or ignoring entirely the deeper, and worrisome, aspects of the event. (Kingsolver’s portrayal of the shallowness of the media is scathing.)

The odd occurrence attracts the interest of the scientific community. Ovid Byron, an entomologist expert on Monarchs from New Mexico, shows up to study the butterflies. He shares with Dellarobia that, far from a miraculous and wonderful thing, the presence of the butterflies so far north from their normal wintering locale is very troubling. The butterflies usually winter in a remote spot in Mexico. That area had been recently devastated when clear cut logging created land slides that degraded the nesting area. Moreover, the higher temperatures lately seen in the middle south have caused the Monarchs to settle where they never have before. (Dellarobia comments frequently on the constant deluge of rain that has been afflicting the region over the winter – the story is centered on the impact of climate change.) The danger, Byron points out, is that a cold snap will expose the dormant butterflies to temperatures they cannot survive, risking the destruction of the entire species. (There is a lot of information in the novel about the life cycle and migration patterns of the butterflies.)

Dellarobia hosts the scientists in a trailer on her property. She becomes close to them and is hired to assist the research. We learn that Dellarobia is highly intelligent. Her potential has been stunted by the lack of economic opportunities in the impoverished region and by becoming pregnant before finishing high school, giving up the chance for a college education. Kingsolver gives a vivid picture of the exceedingly tight financial circumstances the family must cope with. Dellarobia’s husband works only intermittingly and she helps out his family with a sheep farm they operate to gather wool for sale. (Her in-laws are on the brink of financial ruin themselves.) A piece on the Turnbow’s Christmas shopping at the local dollar store would be funny if it weren’t a sad portrayal of how people on low incomes must anguish over spending pennies on junk. In a country of an increasing gap between the rich and all the rest and where the hope in many deprived regions for even a middle class income has vanished, Kingsolver shows poignantly how families like the Turnbow’s intensely struggle to just get by day to day.

The motif of flight behavior isn’t just about the butterflies. Dellarobia is in flight herself – from a sterile marriage, from economic and social circumstances that have trapped her in life that is hollow and unfulfilling. Her walk in the forest on which she discovers the Monarch’s was actually an attempt at a romantic rendezvous with an erstwhile lover. Dellarobia has been continually attracted to other men; mostly it seems because of the lifelessness of her marriage. We don’t get the impression that she has ever consummated a romantic attraction, but she is plagued with these feelings, including a brief fantasy about Dr. Byron which evaporates when he brings his wife for a visit. Dellarobia is desperate; she wants so much more in her life and cannot figure out how this can ever happen.

At the conclusion Dellarobia makes some bold decisions about escaping the traps in which she finds herself. Before she can carry out her plans, the environmental downslide that has been encroaching throughout the story reaches the catastrophe that has been looming and it’s not clear that Dellarobia can move on toward her hopes.

The Monarchs' migratory behavior has been altered by the changing climate; they cannot control their environment, they just behave to what it presents. The question haunting this terrific book is can we humans control our behavior toward the environment upon which everything depends? ( )
  stevesmits | Jul 28, 2014 |
Enjoyed the book. Alot of good, thought provoking statements found throughout the book. She is a great story teller and obviously a deep thinker.
Reread the book and found even more depth and enjoyment. ( )
  pife43 | Jul 23, 2014 |
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors. She is brilliant! No other author can match the way she writes. This novel will not let you down and the only reason it's not getting 5 Stars is because it got bogged down in the middle. There was just too much of the same thing but I stuck with it and found it to be very enjoyable overall.

This novel has a great story line and, due to Ms. Kingsolver's research, I learned a lot about Monarch butterflies and raising sheep. Of course, I feel the primary point in this novel is to raise awareness of climate change/global warming. Who better to write this novel than Ms. Kingsolver because she is a biologist and has worked as a scientist. She brings the point across by weaving it into the incredible story line.

Highly recommended but be prepared for it to slow down in the middle.
There is an unexpected twist near the end that I never saw coming! ( )
  pegmcdaniel | Jun 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
Climate change, for every good and topical reason, headlines Barbara Kingsolver’s marvelous eighth novel. But not to be undersold are its characters, rendered so believably and affectionately, they warm the atmosphere on their own.
...... Kingsolver's masterly evocation of an age – ours, here, now – stumbling wilfully blind towards the abyss is an elegy not just for the endangered monarch butterfly, but for the ambitious, flawed species that conjured the mass extinction of which its loss is a part. Urgent issues demand important art. Flight Behaviour rises – with conscience and majesty – to the occasion of its time.
added by marq | editThe Guardian, Liz Jensen (Nov 2, 2012)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Kingsolverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kingsolver, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Virginia Henry Kingsolver and Wendell Roy Kingsolver
First words
A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture.
Realistically, it probably wasn't slave children, but there had to be armies of factory workers making this slapdash stuff, underpaid people cranking out things for underpaid people to buy and use up, living their lives mostly to cancel each other out. A worldwide entrapment of bottom feeders.
If people played their channels right, they could be spared from disagreement for the length of their natural lives. Finally she got it. The need for so many channels.
There are always more questions. Science as a process is never complete. It is not a foot race, with a finish line. He warned her about this as a standard point of contention. People will always be waiting at a particular finish line: journalists with their cameras, impatient crowds eager to call the race, astounded to see the scientists approach, pass the mark, and keep running. It's a common misunderstanding, he said. They conclude there was no race. As long as we won't commit to knowing everything, the presumption is we know nothing.
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Book description
Flight Behavior transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman's narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel's inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.
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.
Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.
Haiku summary
Climate change is bad / But what to do? Kingsolver / has all the answers.

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Set in the present day in the rural community of Feathertown, Tennessee, Flight Behavior tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a petite, razor-sharp 29-year-old who nurtured worldly ambitions before becoming pregnant and marrying at seventeen. Now, after more than a decade of tending to small children on a failing farm, oppressed by poverty, isolation and her husband's antagonistic family, she has mitigated her boredom by surrendering to an obsessive flirtation with a handsome younger man. In the opening scene, Dellarobia is headed for a secluded mountain cabin to meet this man and initiate what she expects will be a self-destructive affair. But the tryst never happens. Instead, she walks into something on the mountainside she cannot explain or understand: a forested valley filled with silent red fire that appears to her a miracle. After years lived entirely in the confines of one small house, Dellarobia finds her path suddenly opening out, chapter by chapter, into blunt and confrontational engagement with her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large.--publisher.… (more)

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