flight behaviour

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. She hikes up a mountain road behind her house towards a secret tryst, but instead 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.

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 towards truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

It has been quite a few years since our last reading of a Kingsolver novel (Poisonwood Bible in 2002) so it was always going to be interesting to see where we placed her after so long. From the majority of responses the enjoyment level is still up there with many of our favourites.

 Everyone enjoyed the journey into the natural science world and found the migration and environmental plight of the Monarch butterfly fascinating. As a group we are all concerned about global warming and its effects, so Kingsolver’s eco-theme was of great interest to us all.

 In the matter of character relations, we had differing opinions as to whether Dellarobia was worth our concern. Ann took a dislike to her from the beginning and Tera found her character lacking backbone, maturity and simply frustrating to the extreme.

Others sympathized with Del’s trapped circumstances, and knew where she was coming from. The fact that she had out grown her home town and family was evident, but there was also empathy for Cub. His simple, yet loyal personality struck a chord with some of us and believed his character to be well written and convincing.

The many social issues addressed in this novel is impressive. Most of us thought the story and characters all tied in well and that Kingsolver was successful in what she was trying for in this narrative. The humour was appreciated by all, particularly in Del’s relationship with her children and girlfriend.

The only other criticism was the novel’s length. Most thought it could have been edited down somewhat, but generally our group found Flight Behaviour a worthwhile read that will no doubt satisfy all but the pickiest of fiction readers.

Postscript: Tera took this beautiful photo during a walk through a local track just a few weeks ago. A very serendipitous find considering the subject matter of this month’s book. Let’s all hope we never loose these wonderful creatures!

Tera-Butterfly Tree