Louisa Enright's Blog

Mainely Tipping Points

Books: Barbara Kingsolver’s FLIGHT BEHAVIOR

with one comment

Books:  June 16, 2013

Barbara Kingsolver’s FLIGHT BEHAVIOR

For a while I could not decide if I liked this new Kingsolver novel or not.


Kingsolver's Flight Behavior

Then whammo!   All the threads come together in ways that made me walk away with renewed respect for this author who is writing at the top of her game about a subject for which she cares passionately.

I care passionately about his subject, too, and I was afraid early on that Kingsolver was being too didactic, too pat–in ways that would turn off too many readers who really need to understand the basic science of how wrong things have gotten on this planet.

Kingsolver locates her main character in a small southern town where inhabitants just try to get on with living, just try to keep earning money, just try to face and survive really difficult economic issues.  Dellarobia is a high school graduate who had wanted to go on to college; who got pregnant; who married the earnest, sweet father; who struggles daily not only to try to keep her life together, but to find the meaning of it.  She’s at a point where she is going to cut and run when she goes up on the mountain behind her home and sees millions of monarchs who have unaccountably come to winter in southern mountains instead of in Mexico where they have wintered for thousands of years.  There are so many that the sides of the valley seem to be on fire.

The “why” of the monarch move forms the backbone of the book, but Kingsolver never for one  moment forgets to flesh out her characters and show them to be the complicated, struggling beings that they are.  The “flight behavior” is about far more than the monarchs’ flight patterns.

There are no comic book good guys and bad guys in this novel.  There are people who grow and change and acquire new understanding of the world and of each other.  These are, for the most part, people you would want to be among if trouble comes.  And, Kingsolver makes more than clear, trouble has come.  Yet, she leaves us with hope that things can be different, that we can make changes in our lives that will work better for each of us and for all of us.

Monarchs are very present in Maine in the summer.  They arrive, lay eggs on milkweed plants, which we have in abundance, and, I think, die.  Their babies hatch into gorgeously outrageous caterpillars, which eat milkweed, form a chrysalis, and turn into the monarchs which are the generation that make the long flight to Mexico.  (I think I have that right.)

Last summer, young neighbor Margaret Richmond of Golden Brook farm had a pail with about 10 or 12 monarch caterpillars which she offered to share.

Margaret with monarch caterpillars

We declined as the grandchildren were leaving for home shortly.  But Margaret put the caterpillars on milkweed and watched them until they became butterflies.

Here’s a caterpillar in my hand:

Monarch caterpiller, Aug. 2012

We came home and Kels found a chrysalis in our yard and, the next morning, watched it hatch into a butterfly.

Written by louisaenright

June 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. This is so serious and beautiful all at the same time.

    Toni Venz

    June 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: