Friday, December 28, 2012

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Monarch in my friend
Claire's kitchen,
Auckland 2009
Set in the Appalachians in Tennessee, Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior centers around Dellarobia, a young mother who discovers that millions of monarchs are overwintering in the forest on her family's sheep farm. Because of dire financial straits, Dellarobia's father-in-law is determined to clearcut the land, regardless. In this novel, Kingsolver addresses social and environmental concerns with an open-hearted understanding of opposing points of view. Her characters and their circumstances are fleshed out through dialogue as well as their actions.

Conversation between Dellarobia and a butterfly expert, Dr. Byron:

"Tell me, Dellarobia. What did you do in science class?"
"In high school? Our science teacher was the basketball coach, if you want to know. Coach Bishop. He hated biology about twenty percent more than the kids did. He'd leave the girls doing study sheets while he took the boys to the gym to shoot hoops."
"How is that possible?"
"How? He'd take a vote, usually. 'Who says we shoot hoops today?' Obviously no girl would vote against it. You'd never get another date in your life."
He seemed doubtful of her story. But it was true, and in Dellarobia's opinion no more far-fetched than the tales he'd told her. Of newborn butterflies, for instance, somehow flying thousands of miles to a place they'd never seen, the land where their forefathers died. Life was just one big fat swarm of kids left to fend for themselves.

Conversation between Dellarobia and her best friend, Dovey:

"You should hear Bear on his rant against raising taxes on the millionaires. He says they worked for every penny, and that's what he went in the military to protect."
"Wow. He was a gunner in 'Nam to protect CEO salaries?"
"I guess."
"Well, yeah," Dovey said. "That's America. We watch shows about rich people's houses and their designer dresses and we drool. It's patriotic."

Conversation between Dellarobia's father-in-law, Burley ('Bear'), and their church pastor, Bobby:

Bear, apparently at the end of his argument rope, called Bobby a tree hugger.
Bobby looked amused. "Well now, what are you, Burley, a tree puncher? What have you got against the Lord's trees?"

Flight Behavior is a warm and engaging tale with characters so realistic that I'm still thinking about them two weeks after finishing the book. I loved it.


Claire G said...

I wasn't so keen on Flight Behavior but did , like you, enjoy the interesting things that 'just came up' in conversation. A favourite one-liner (nothing to do with butterflies) was that the idea of hell as a fiery furnace was:
‘Too campy. Like some Halloween drive-in movie.’ (The Gospel According to Dovey, Dellarobia's BFF.)
- Claire (she of the monarch in the kitchen - lovely shot, btw.)

Lindy said...

I like that three different stages of chrysalis are visible in the photo, especially the beautiful gold spots on the green one. (I cropped one of L's photos.)
Regarding the book, is the NZ jacket cover the same as the one I've used?

Claire G said...

The one I borrowed from Auckland Libraries was the same - it was the US edition - but the UK/Australasia edition is a fawny yellow. You can see it at , where there's also an interesting review.
On the photo: I loved the way that when I enlarged it I suddenly saw the ready-to-hatch chrysalis in the top right - like a treasure unburied.

Lindy said...

Thanks for the link to The Age review with alternate cover image. I like the yellow one better.