Bored and dissatisfied with her life as a young mother and overlooked housewife, Dellarobia is looking for some form of excitement to bring up her mundane existence. On her way to begin a distracting affair, she walks straight into the middle of a miracle, a phenomenon of nature that seems to demand that she goes about changing her life in other ways. Soon her life is full but still not necessary fulfilling. Dellarobia has to make some tough decisions if she is to spread her wings and rise above the shackles, some of which she has made for herself.
In some novels, the characters seem to grow into real people as you read but here they seem to be rounded and fully formed from the start. They have secrets but the reader is not in a position to judge. Each character is trapped by circumstances and the fear of stepping away from the flock and making a change. Their lives are sadly hampered by the limitations of class and poverty. Saying this, there are uplifting moments where I felt humbled by the kind actions of people who were willing to share the little that they had. Society is important within the novel and so it should be. Kingsolver has created characters that come to life. They have flaws but that’s what makes them perfect. Even when conflict arises and sides are taken, I cared about each and every one, wishing that everything could be resolved amicably.
The description of the Appalachians is evocative and stunning, enabling the reader to watch the story unfold in their mind with dramatic backdrops. Some books I read and cannot help but think of the amazing films that may be based on them but, in this case, a film might take away from the imagery provided by Kingsolver or could be a letdown in comparison.
When Dr Byron, an expert, arrives to study the butterflies that Dellarobia has stumbled upon, he sets up a laboratory in her barn. In the midst of the organised chaos, he says, ‘This is what science looks like.’ Between Dr Byron, Dellarobia and her young, enthusiastic son, Preston, the message that anyone can be a scientist if they have a will to get involved and make a difference was made clear. The metaphors used to describe the effects of global warming made Dr Byron’s technical theories easy to understand in a way that was eerily beautiful but painfully tragic. I found that I had learned a lot about nature and the environment without trying.
The novel emphasised the fragility of our environment and life on a large scale. It shows the amount of destruction we can cause to our world we live in, ourselves and each other. It forces the reader to examine their own conscience and to care about nature. Never has the importance of butterflies been so clear!
In ‘Flight Behaviour', you get all this and more wrapped up beautifully in an engaging, thought-provoking, heart-warming story of human endeavour to hold on to our own worlds and the one we share.
At the end of the novel, I felt a kind of loss. I wanted to stay with Dellarobia as she continued her journey and it isn’t often that I encounter a novel where I would not change a single thing… Apart from maybe having a sequel!