I love Barbara Kingsolver. I’ve read most of her books–excluding Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and The Prodigal Summer. This one is her most recent, and it totally holds up. The novel is set in modern Appalachia–East Tennessee, specifically. The protagonist, Dellarobia Turnbow, is a young mom who married her overgrown child-husband when she got pregnant in high school. She and her husband Cub were rushed into marriage, a home on the corner of Cub’s parent’s property, and a sheltered life in their mountain holler. At 28, Dellarobia is on her way to cheat on her husband when she sees walks into a scene she doesn’t at first understand.
As it turns out, North America’s monarch butterflies have decided to bed down in the woods behind Dellarobia’s house for the winter. Due to climate change, the forest in Mexico where they monarchs usually hibernate has been wiped out by a landslide. The butterflies ended up in Tennessee for lack of another place to go–and lulled by the mild fall weather. However, if the temperature drops below freezing, the entire population is in jeopardy.
Naturally, the circumstances at hand draw a huge amount of attention to the Turnbow farm. With it comes a handsome scientist named Ovid Byron (let it happen…) who opens Dellarobia’s son Preston’s eyes to the world of science. When the butterflies land on the Turnbow trees, they bring with them questions bigger than Dellarobia knows how to handle. Flight Behavior really is a novel of contradictions– young vs old, science vs religion, technology vs tradition, male vs female, and animal vs human. It’s a cautionary tale about global warming–yes–but it also does a nice job of shedding some light on the complications of the issue. For the Turnbows, climate change is as far away from their lives as the polar icecaps themselves. Perhaps because their entire livelihood relies of the cooperation of nature, global warming is too big a nightmare to accept blindly. However, even when the proof is huddled in bunches on the Turnbow trees, Cub and his parents, Bear and Hester, still have a hard time believing.
The list so far:
25. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver