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Summary and book reviews of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior

by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Nov 2012, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2013, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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Book Summary

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.

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.

1
The Measure of a Man

A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise. Innocence was no part of this. She knew her own recklessness and marveled, really, at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace. The shame and loss would infect her children too, that was the worst of it, in a town where everyone knew them. Even the teenage cashiers at the grocery would take an edge with her after this, clicking painted fingernails on the counter while she wrote her check, eyeing the oatmeal and frozen peas of an unhinged family and exchanging looks with the bag boy: She's that one. How they admired their own steadfast lives. Right up to the day when hope in all its versions went out of stock, including the crummy discount brands, and the heart had just one instruction left: run. Like a hunted...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is the significance of the novel's title? Talk about the imagery of flight. How is it represented throughout the story?
  2. How do the chapter titles relate both to scientific concepts as well as the events that unfold within each chapter itself?
  3. Describe Dellarobia. How is she of this mountain town in Tennessee and how is she different from it? How are she and her family connected to the land and to nature itself? How are they disconnected? How does this shape their viewpoints? How does she describe herself? Do you agree with her self-assessment?
  4. Talk about the characters names—Dellarobia, Preston, Cordelia, Dovey, Ovid Byron, Cub, Bear, Hester. How does the author's choice of nomenclature suit her characters? When ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

While Kingsolver's novels have always contained political, environmental, and social messages, these messages are rendered with a particularly strong hand in Flight Behavior. The book shows the reality of how different social and economic groups in America view global warming, and the implicit danger in all Americans not fully understanding the magnitude and complexity of climate change. Kingsolver speaks to trendy "going green" habits, the failure of poor public schools to teach science, the religious issues surrounding evolution, and the modern-day concerns of rural American farmers. Though the ecological event that drives Flight Behavior is fictional, the concerns that are voiced and demonstrated are very, very real.   (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).

Full Review Members Only (635 words).

Media Reviews
Oprah.com

…Enthralling…Dellarobia is appealingly complex as a smart, curious, warmhearted woman desperate to - no resisting the metaphor here - trade her cocoon for wings.

Elle Magazine

A dazzling page-turner

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With her powerful new novel, Kingsolver delivers literary fiction that conveys an urgent social message… a clarion call about climate change, too lucid and vivid for even skeptics to ignore.

Booklist

Starred Review. Drawing on both her Appalachian roots and her background in biology, Kingsolver delivers a passionate novel on the effects of global warming.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. People trying to survive economically day-by-day. One of Kingsolver's better efforts at preaching her politics and pulling heartstrings at the same time.

Reader Reviews
Cloggie Downunder

Kingsolver's best yet
Flight Behaviour is the 5th stand-alone novel by Barbara Kingsolver. In the Appalachian Mountains above her home, eastern Tennessee farm wife and mother of two, Dellarobia Turnbow is about to take a step that will change her unsatisfactory life ...   Read More

Tillie H

Flight Behavior says it all
It’s the story of Dellarobia, who finds herself restless with life. She's basically trapped in a marriage with a man who she has come to love because he's good to her. She wakes up one morning set out on going to a rendezvous with a younger man who ...   Read More

Dorothy T.

Many layers to this story
Although heavy on the scientific details, which slowed down the story for me (OK, I admit, I was one of those liberal arts majors who skipped out on science classes), Barbara Kingsolver gives her readers much to think about seriously: How we tend to ...   Read More

Diane S.

Flight
It is so very welcome to once again have Kingsolver write about the rural and mountain areas that have produced some of my favorite novels of hers. The character of Dellarobia and her children, wonderful and so earnest little Preston, the situations ...   Read More

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The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

The misguided migration of monarch butterflies to southern Appalachia in Flight Behavior is a fictional event, but Kingsolver grounds her theoretical occurrence in reality. As readers see through the character of Lupe, the Mexican wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly are damaged by drastic flooding and mudslides. This event is, sadly, entirely true.

The town of Angangueo in Mexico is host to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve In February 2010 the town of Angangueo, Mexico was devastated by floods and landslides. The damage caused the local economy to rely even more heavily on its butterfly-related tourism due to the extensive damage to the town's infrastructure, crop productions, and ability to farm cattle. Angangueo is located in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ...

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