Welcome to She Said/She Said, where GGC Members from across Canada are our book reviewers who share their opinions about this month’s book choice: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (published by Harper Collins Canada).
This book is suitable for young adults, ages 14 and older, and may contain mild uses of violence and/or profanity, sexual content and/or mature themes within the context of the story.
Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel Flight Behavior is centred on a young mother’s journey after she discovers a swarm of monarch butterflies in the mountains behind her Tennessee home. This is an unnatural occurrence and the novel chronicles how this strange event affects Dellarobia (the central character), her family, the community, and even the global community.
Initially I had a tough time getting into this book. I wasn’t fond of Dellarobia at the start of the book, but I grew to like her somewhat and began to understand her view-point better as the book went on. She changes quite a bit from the start of the book to the end, growing from an unhappy young woman who doesn’t seem to do much to help herself, into a confident young woman who stands up for herself and starts to take control of her life.
I think that Girl Guide Members who have been to the Our Cabana butterfly sessions (or are thinking about it) would appreciate this book and be able to personally connect with the descriptions of the butterflies, the tourists coming from around the world, and to the back story about the Mexican family who Dellarobia befriends. I just wish there had been more written about the Mexican tie in!
This is also an interesting book in how it ties in to the Girl Guides of Canada’s National Service Project – Operation Earth Action. One of the scientists that is written into the book talks a lot about environmental change in a way that non-scientists (like myself) can understand. There was one part of the book that really stuck with me that touches on environmental action; an environmentalist who encourages all of the people visiting the butterflies to make a pledge to reduce their environmental impact. He goes through the list with Dellarobia (whose family barely can make ends meet) and is flustered when hardly any of the items apply to Dellarobia – things like fly less, eat out less, and don’t buy bottled water – are sorely out of place in her world. It made me really think about the environmental movement and how a lot of the information and suggestions are really aimed at quite a small portion of the population. It’s almost like Kingsolver is challenging us to look for ways that everyone, regardless of their economic situation, can make a difference.
She Said: Jenn Calado, Guider
Global warming. We hear news stories where scientists explain what is happening but like me, you may feel lost when it comes to the effect on us as individuals. Barbara Kingsolver set out to paint a picture of one woman’s perspective on climate change in her new novel Flight Behavior. Dellarobia is a woman in personal crisis living in a small town when her life is dramatically changed by the arrival of millions of butterflies. Thrust into the limelight she draws on her inner strength to stand up for herself and her children as she begins to understand the impact of global warming on her life.
Instead of providing us with easy answers, Kingsolver portrays without judgment a variety of viewpoints on climate change. She offers insight into people’s actions while allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions. While I remain committed to supporting environmental causes, after reading this book I am more aware of the complexities of taking action to stop global warming. Education is important but it’s not the only factor when it comes to people’s support for a cause. This novel provides a good reminder which is applicable to many situations in Guiding – before making assumptions and lecturing others who seem to disagree with us we could try to understand the situation in its context and truly listen to people’s concerns.
I enjoyed Kingsolver’s handling of such an important topic – the book is very readable and leads to reflection and discussion. Dellarobia is a flawed but inspiring character. While I did find some of her other books more engrossing (The Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), it is still an interesting read.
She Said: Melissa Moor, Guider
A miracle. Divine presence. That is the only way to explain it. You scuttle back down the mountain, bursting with hope, overflowing with energy. Then you see it. Your little house. You stop. There is the cracked foundation. The peeling siding. The broken fence line. Your little world. What happens when you’ve witnessed something so powerful, so inexplicable that it could only be an Act of God? How do you fit back into your community, your family, yourself? And what happens if this miracle is not a miracle after all? What happens if this miracle is really a disaster?
In her compelling new novel, Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver explores how one unexpected discovery can radically change the way you see the world.
Tired and bored, young mom Dellarobia treks up the mountainside with less than noble intentions, only to witness something astounding. The mountains are engulfed in a cold, silent red fire. When Dellarobia comes down from the mountain, neighbours, preachers and scientists begin the quest to explain what she saw. In the midst of the struggle to define her discovery, Dellarobia fights to redefine herself.
Flight Behaviour paints a poignant picture of life in rural Appalachia, of lives touched by poverty, shaped by unspoken expectations and unrealized ambitions. Kingsolver’s powerful dialogue allows readers to feel belief turn to confusion and hope turn to despair, as Dellarobia’s beautiful miracle evolves into a global concern. Kingsolver packs meaning and emotion into short sentences,making Flight Behaviour accessible and engaging.
Exploring how we negotiate identity and belief, Flight Behaviour weaves a stunning story of the power of having something inexplicable to call your own, and the pain of having that thing explained away.
Melissa is working on Parliament Hill as part of the Parliamentary Internship Programme.
She is a Guider with the 5th Ottawa Brownies.