Book: Flight Behaviour

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Publisher: Harper Collins

Review: Venilla Yoganathan

WHEN Dellarobia Turnbow first sees the “phenomenon”, she thinks it surely must be a warning of the dangerous path she is treading.

Too much of a rationalist to believe in acts of God, the field of gold at the top of the hill in her backyard is nonetheless a dazzling eye-opener for the mother of two on her way to meet a crush.

It brings Dellarobia, bored with the monotony of her life, to her senses, and the planned extra-marital rendezvous never takes place.

But still Dellarobia’s life is to change dramatically with the arrival of the sea of gold – which is, in fact, a large swarm of monarch butterflies that end up roosting in the mountains behind her house in Appalachia instead of making their way back to Mexico, as nature has had them do every year for as long as anyone can remember.

Why did these delicate creatures settle in the small town where dropping temperatures over winter threaten their survival?

In this small town community, with its new age church as its anchor, people are convinced it is an act of God.

However, Professor Ovid Byron, who has studied the habits of the butterflies virtually his whole life, knows better. He knows that as the earth has grown hotter every year because of global warming, the climate in the traditional mating place of the monarchs has steadily changed, forcing the butterflies to seek a new home in Dellarobia’s backyard.

With the arrival of Byron, who sets up a mobile laboratory in her yard, Dellarobia is not only presented with a significantly better object of infatuation, but also allows her dreams of a better, more rewarding life to take flight.

More than a story about Dellarobia’s awakening (in itself an endearing tale of a woman coming to terms with her dead-end life), this book takes a burning issue of our times into the realms of fiction as only Kingsolver can.

There are no taking sides; it’s simply a reflection of the denialism around climate change, which for many remains an elitist, remote issue even as unpredictable and unexplainable weather conditions destroy livelihoods all around them.