Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia Turnbow is the first person to see them.  Thousands, maybe millions of brilliant monarch butterflies who turn the mountain on her husband and in-law's farm to molten gold.  What are they doing there?  Are they a miracle sent to brighten her life?  Is God speaking to them all?

Dellarobia could use a miracle.  She sees nothing but tedium ahead of her in her rural Tennessee life.  She married early to a kind man who she will never love and the best they have been able to do in life is to live on her in-laws land in a house the in-laws built them and under the in-laws thumb.  She had hoped to be one of the first to get out, to go to college but an early pregnancy put paid to all that.  Now there is no work and little money, just a constant scrabble to pay the bills and provide for her two children.  She is under her mother-in-law's rule and that means going to church whenever the doors open and doing whatever she's told.  What does this beauty mean in such a tattered, hopeless life?

As the word of the butterflies gets out, things start to change.  A team of scientists come to study the butterflies and what this change in their migration pattern means.  Dellarobia gets to know them and to work for them as a general manager to the college students who come to volunteer.  She is surrounded by people who have science as their base knowledge and who see this as a cautionary event, not a wonderful thing.  Her son is entranced with these new people and Dellarobia sees him stretching and growing and starting to see possibilities that she is determined to find a way to give him.  Her in-laws are not happy and the townspeople aren't sure what to think of all the tourists.  The church hasn't weighed in but Dellarobia knows that may be the determining factor of everything in this area that is so connected to it.

Barbara Kingsolver's novels often use literature to illustrate the way our world is changing and the dangers of how civilization and the consumer society threaten our world.  She uses natural wonders to illustrate the themes of science, responsible behavior and the ability to use knowledge to transform lives.  This book does all that and the reader will find themselves both appalled at what is happening and cheering for Dellarobia to make the changes that will enrich her life.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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