Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver

This book is titled Flight Behavior for good reason. It opens with a 27-year-old Applachian woman, Dellarobia Turnbow, poised to take flight from her shotgun marriage to a man she does not love and no longer respects and from the responsibility of two young children, and her mundane life of near poverty. On her way to begin an

affair with a younger man, she runs up the mountain above her family’s farm and straight into an astounding phenomenon that changes everything for her.

She stumbles into the forest alight with millions of beautiful orange Monarch butterflies covering nearly every inch of the ground, tree trunks and branches. Dellarobia is filled with awe and wonderment and interprets the sight as a sign from God that she must go back to her life and try to make her marriage work.

As word spreads about the butterflies, the local religious community, then the international media, consider the sight miraculous. But when a Harvard-educated scientist whose life work is studying butterflies arrives and sets up a lab on the Turnbow farm, he is certain that the migratory patterns of these Monarch butterflies has been disrupted by the effects of climate change. On their annual flight to the warmer climate of Mexico, something caused them to land in the less-friendly climate of the Tennesee, forest putting their survival at risk.

Dellarobia originally had planned to improve her life by attending college. But an unplanned pregnancy had disrupted those plans and landed her – like the butterflies— in a very different and uncomfortable environment. As she gets involved in the scientific study taking place in her own back yard, she begins to see that she and her children can attain a better and more meaningful life.

Kingsolver tells a fascinating, gripping story and tells it beautifully. But her book also conveys an urgent social message about climate change.

—by Gail Stilwill

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