A sense of fluttering between life and death pervades the novel, Flight Behavior (2012) by Barbara Kingsolver. A master wordsmith, she seams three stories together: the twenty-seven year old Dellarobia Turnbow, with shoulder-length red hair, in a lackluster marriage working with in-laws on their hardscrabble sheep farm; the plight of millions of Monarch butterflies wintering, by mistake, upon their mountain forest in Appalachia; and global pollution threatening this fragile ecosystem.

For five months, both Dellarobia and the butterflies remain suspended in animation, their future unknown as they endure bone-chilling rains, muddied paths, and near freezing temperatures.

A quickening arrives in the person of Dr. Byron, entomologist and life-long student of Monarch butterflies, from a university in New Mexico. He visits this phenomenon and with his associates sets up a lab in the Turnbow sheep barn to monitor this catastrophe. He also enlists Dellarobia’s help. The flickering of Monarchs clumped for warmth against tree trunks stirs probing questions within this young mother. Like the butterflies’ instinct for survival, she roots around the predictable corners of her life and imagines a different one for herself. In the process, she finds her voice and raises significant questions to her spouse, his family, and her community, all the while caring for eighteen-month Cordie and her inquisitive brother; both offer a much-needed comic relief.

Only Barbara Kingsolver could bring all this to a head with her finger on the faint pulse of life, with textural images that breathe, and with the ecstasy of release. A riveting read, from the first page.

 

 

100_0740

Advertisements