Flight Behavior Takes Terrifying Look at the Butterfly Effect

Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior."

Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior.”

Editor’s note: There isn’t anything inherently gay about this book or its author, unless male readers enjoy some of the sexy descriptions of the male protagonist; but it’s a book with relevance for today’s readers on a very important topic. Plus, I have a problem sticking to themes.

For a novel that is so far from being in the horror genre, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” is terrifying — in the way that a burning bush was terrifying to Moses and in the apocalyptic sense that portends the future of mankind.

Writing with the authority of a scientist, which is part of her own past, Kingsolver binds together a parable about climate change with a lazy story about a farming family in Tennessee, the maternal figure Dellarobia of which is a restless housewife who love*s her children fiercely but feels trapped in her station.

At the book’s beginning Dellarobia is attempting to take flight from her sleepy life when she is arrested by a vision on her mountain: millions upon millions of monarch butterflies setting the woods ablaze with a miracle of life in proportions that are biblical. The arrival of God’s creatures sparks a conflict in the tiny Tennessee town between religion, industry and science, like a microcosm of the world that exists today.

While she throws in themes of poverty, poor education and other political footballs, the author concentrates on the greatest challenge facing mankind today, humans’ effect on our planet and she focuses on the progeny of the planet and what might be left behind for them.

Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver

She makes it readable by juxtaposing an urgency surrounding the displaced butterflies with the story of a modern woman, literally living off the land to feed her husband and children while fighting a compulsion to break away from the life she did not choose for herself.

Kingsolver poses a big “what if” in “Flight Behavior” and when she finally reveals the answer to it, science-fiction becomes science-reality that is chilling and frightening.


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