Flight Behavior

Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

13 of 16
Flight Behavior
448 pages; Harper
Walking up a muddy hill in high-heeled thrift store boots on her way to consummate an adulterous flirtation, Dellarobia Turnbow marvels at her own recklessness, "at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace. "She turns back after encountering a frightening sight: a forest full of trees that "glowed with an orange blaze." In Barbara Kingsolver's enthralling novel Flight Behavior, millions of brightly colored monarch butterflies inexplicably migrate to a mountain in rural Tennessee, sparking events that will transform Dellarobia. Since getting pregnant at 17, she has slogged through a decade of housework, domineering in-laws, penny pinching, and marriage to the decent but infuriatingly passive Cub. While she loves her two children, days spent "with an underemployed mind clocking in and out of a scene that smelled of urine and mashed bananas" leave her aching to flee. But then the butterflies swarming over land owned by Cub's parents bring the wider world to her. Tourists flock to witness their beauty; a distinguished (and, not incidentally, dreamy) science professor, Ovid, comes to study the creatures. Ovid, who sees the migration as evidence of climate change, exposes Dellarobia to new ideas about nature and herself. While Kingsolver's environmental message is anything but subtle, Dellarobia is appealingly complex as a smart, curious, warmhearted woman desperate to—no resisting the metaphor here—trade her cocoon for wings.
— Karen Holt