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Flight Behavior: A Novel (P.S.)
by Barbara Kingsolver

Published: 2012-11-06
Hardcover : 448 pages
64 members reading this now
137 clubs reading this now
36 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 31 of 34 members

New York Times Bestseller

Indie Bestseller

Barnes & Noble Bestseller

National Bestseller

Amazon Best Book of the Month

Indie Next Pick

Best Book of the Year: New York Times Notable, Washington Post Notable, Amazon Editor’s Choice, USA Today’s Top Ten (#1), St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas ...

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Introduction

New York Times Bestseller

Indie Bestseller

Barnes & Noble Bestseller

National Bestseller

Amazon Best Book of the Month

Indie Next Pick

Best Book of the Year: New York Times Notable, Washington Post Notable, Amazon Editor’s Choice, USA Today’s Top Ten (#1), St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star

Prize-winning author: Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Dayton Literary Peace Prize (Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award), Orange Prize for Fiction

Prize-winning Author: National Humanities Medal, Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Orange Prize for Fiction, Dayton Literary Peace Prize (Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award)

"Kingsolver is a gifted magician of words."
Time

The extraordinary New York Times bestselling author of The Lacuna (winner of the Orange Prize), The Poisonwood Bible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize), and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver returns with a truly stunning and unforgettable work. Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver's riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world. Flight Behavior is arguably Kingsolver's must thrilling and accessible novel to date, and like so many other of her acclaimed works, represents contemporary American fiction at its finest.

Editorial Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: In what may be the first novel to realistically imagine the near-term impact of “global weirding,” Barbara Kingsolver sets her latest story in rural Appalachia . In fictional Feathertown, Tennessee, Dellarobia Turnbow--on the run from her stifling life--charges up the mountain above her husband’s family farm and stumbles onto a “valley of fire” filled with millions of monarch butterflies. This vision is deemed miraculous by the town’s parishioners, then the international media. But when Ovid, a scientist who studies monarch behavior, sets up a lab on the Turnbow farm, he learns that the butterflies’ presence signals systemic disorder--and Dellarobia's in-laws’ logging plans won’t help. Readers who bristle at politics made personal may be turned off by the strength of Kingsolver’s convictions, but she never reduces her characters to mouthpieces, giving equal weight to climate science and human need, to forces both biological and biblical. Her concept of family encompasses all living beings, however ephemeral, and Flight Behavior gracefully, urgently contributes to the dialogue of survival on this swiftly tilting planet. --Mari Malcolm

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. What is the significance of the novel's title? Talk about the imagery of flight. How is it represented
throughout the story?

2. How do the chapter titles relate both to scientific concepts as well as the events that unfold within
each chapter itself?

3. Describe Dellarobia. How is she of this mountain town in Tennessee and how is she different from it?

How are she and her family connected to the land and to nature itself? How are they disconnected?

How does this shape their viewpoints? How does she describe herself? Do you agree with her self-assessment?

4. Talk about the characters names Dellarobia, Preston, Cordelia, Dovey, Ovid Byron, Cub, Bear, Hester. How does the author's choice of
nomenclature suit her characters? When you first meet these characters, including Pastor Bobby, what were your first impressions? Were
your notions about them challenged as the story progressed?

5. Describe the small town in Tennessee where Dellarobia lives. What are the people like? Are they familiar to you? What is everyday life
like for them? What are their major joys and concerns? How you strike a balance between protecting nature when your livelihood depends
upon its destruction?

6. Talk about Della's relationships with the various people in her life: Cub, Hester, Pastor Bobby, Dovey, Ovid Byron. What do her
experiences teach her about herself and life?

7. How does Della react when she first sees the Monarchs? What greater meaning do the butterflies hold for her? How is she like the
butterflies? How does finding them transform her life? Were the butterflies a miracle?

8. As news of her discovery spreads, what are the reactions of her in-laws and her neighbors? How do they view Della? What are their
impressions of the scientists and tourists who descend upon their remote town?

9. What does Dellarobia think about her new friends, and especially Ovid Byron? What about the scientists'how do they view people like
Della, her family, and her neighbors? Does either side see they other realistically?

10. Cub and his father, Bear, want to sell the patch of forest where the Monarchs are to a lumber company for clear-cutting. What
ramifications would this have, not only for the butterflies but for Della's family and her town? Why is it often difficult for people see the
long-term effects of their immediate actions? Cub doesn't consider conserving nature to be his problem. What might you say to convince
him otherwise?

11. Though she may not have a formal education beside her high school diploma, would you call Dellarobia wise? Where does her
knowledge come from? Is she religious? Their Christian faith is very important to many of her neighbors. How does Barbara Kingsolver
portray religion, faith, and God in the novel? What are your impressions of Pastor Bobby?

12. "Kids in Feathertown wouldn't know college-bound from a hole in the ground. They don't need it for life around here. College is kind of
irrelevant.," Della tells Ovid. Why isn't college important to these people? Should it be? Would you say the people of Feathertown respect
education? Why is faith and instinct enough for some people? When she explained this to Ovid, "His eyes went wide, as if she'd
mentioned they boiled local children alive. His shock gave her a strange satisfaction she could not have explained. Insider status,
maybe." Explain her attitude. Yet Dellarobia also believes that, "educated people had powers." What does she mean by this? How does
education empower people? Can it also blind them?

13. After Dellarobia's parents died, what options did she have? She wanted to go to school'and did try'she tells Ovid. "People who hadn't
been through it would think it was that simple: just get back on the bus, ride to the next stop. He would have no inkling of the great slog
of effort that tied up people like her in the day to day. Or the quaking misgivings that infected every step forward, after a loss. Even
now, dread still struck her down sometimes if she found herself counting on things being fine. Meaning her now-living children and their
future, those things. She had so much more to lose now than just herself or her own plans." What are the factors that hold back people
in Dellarobia's circumstances? How can they be overcome? How is each character's ideas about the future colored by his or her
circumstances?

14. Flight Behavior illuminates the conflicting attitudes of different classes towards nature and the idea of climate change. How does
each side see this issue? Where do they find common ground? Do you believe in global warming or climate change? Explain the basis of
your beliefs. How much do you know about both the proponents and opponents in this debate?

15. Why do so many Americans fear or dislike science? Why do so many others fear or dislike religion? What impact do these attitudes
have on the nation now and what do they portend for our future?

16. For Dellarobia, "Nobody truly decided for themselves, there was too much information. What they actually did was scope around,
decide who was looking out for their clan, and sign on for the memos on a wide array of topics." Do you agree that this is a fair
assessment of a divided America? How can we get beyond our judgments and stereotypes?

17. How is media both a help and a hindrance in our understanding of social issues? How does it offer clarity and how does it add
confusion? How is the media portrayed in Flight Behavior? What impact does it have on Dellarobia and the fate of the butterflies? People
are envious that the media pays attention to Dellarobia, yet she says being interviewed was like, "having her skin peeled off." Why are so
many people consumed by a desire for fame?

18. Ovid has doubts about his work. "What was the use of saving a world that had no soul left in it. Continents without butterflies, seas
without coral reefs, he meant. What if all human effort amounted basically to saving a place for ourselves to park?" he asks Dellarobia?
How would you answer him?

19. Flight Behavior interweaves important themes: religion and science, poverty and wealth, education and instinct or faith, intolerance
and acceptance, How are these themes used to complement each other and how do they conflict? Choose one theme and trace it
throughout the novel, explaining how it illuminates a particular character's life.

20. At the end of the novel, Dellarobia recalls when Ovid Byron first met Preston and declared the boy a scientist. "A moment, Dellarobia
now believed, that changed Preston's life. You never knew which split second might be the zigzag bolt dividing all that went before from
everything that comes next." Have you ever had such a defining moment in your life? Was there a special person who influenced you and
helped guide or shift the course of your life?

21. What do you think will happen to Dellarobia, Preston, and Cordelia?

22. What did you take away from reading Flight Behavior?

Suggested by Members

excellent discussion questions from the publisher.
by seashell723 (see profile) 07/17/14

What is the significance of the title? To what or whom does it refer?
What is the significance of the characters' names?
by mbell7 (see profile) 12/19/13

What are you personally doing to protect the environment?
How worried are you for the future of our planet?
Are you going to change anything you do now for the betterment of the earth/
by thnxandyc (see profile) 08/06/13

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Immersed in the setting
by Mad Hatters (see profile) 01/27/17
We had lunch in a member's butterfly garden. We even got to release some newborns into the garden.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by Hanknlori (see profile) 12/01/19

 
by csmiklos (see profile) 01/29/19

 
by elm7597 (see profile) 05/10/17

 
  "Flight Behavior"by Mad Hatters (see profile) 01/27/17

A book that will have you taking an adventure into the flight of the monarch butterflies. Into the adventure you will meet an extraordinary woman and how she has to deal with a family that does not appreciate... (read more)

 
  "Flight Behavior"by markokopp1 (see profile) 08/15/16

Tough book to get into. 1st chapter goes on and on about the main character's decision to have an affair. Then the author spends a lot of time with the main character criticizing other women, mainly... (read more)

 
by linzolinzo (see profile) 05/04/16

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