FLIGHT BEHAVIOR by Barbara Kingsolver

FlightBehaviorBarbara Kingsolver’s novel FLIGHT BEHAVIOR is the sort of book you would expect from this gifted novelist, whose story combines climate change with religious faith and traditional values.

Set in Southern Appalachia, protagonist Dellarobbia’s life is turned upside down when a swath of Monarch butterflies nests in her mountain, carpeting the landscape with their bright colors. This has never happened before, and leaves people seeking various explanations from religion and science.

What is so wonderful about this book is the sensitive portrayal of people who have so little money and access to resources that they are imprisoned by the kind of inertia that is brought about by lack of opportunities.

My favorite scene was the one between Dellarobbia and the man with the questionnaire, designed to find out how big your carbon footprint is. The questions were so not relevant to Dellarobbia’s life, it was hysterical. And sad.

What was not so good were all of the innumerable descriptions of Dellarobbia’s life with her children. If you have young children and live in a part of the world that resembles rural Appalachia, you will probably wonder why I complain about this. And in the first part of the book, when Dellarobbia has such a delightfully opinionated voice, this problem was not noticeable. But after she realizes the extent of the problem represented by the butterflies, after the novel becomes much more somber in tone, her voice flattens out and loses its emotional punch. A stronger editorial hand was needed. Four stars.

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