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Flight Behavior: 08/08/13

cover art

I listened to Flight Behavior written and performed by Barbara Kingsolver during the annual monarch over-wintering in California. Kinsolver's book, though, is set in rural Tennessee, an area that isn't on the monarch's flight path. East coast monarchs overwinter in Mexico. But what if global warming changes that? Will they adapt? Will they survive? Are they the canaries in the environmental coal mine?

Dellarobia Turnbow discovers the monarchs, hanging in flaming swatches of orange from the trees of her in-laws' hillside. She has gone up there to contemplate an affair or possibly suicide. She's unhappy with her life — that much she knows. She feels stuck by her marriage, her lack of education and her in-laws who are hers only because she had gotten pregnant in high school (and then lost the baby).

And then, there are these butterflies. Thousands of them. She doesn't even know at first what kind they are. Why should she? They've never been here before and she's never been anywhere else.

The arrival of the monarchs brings the rest of the world to Dellarobia, opening new opportunities for her. A scientist and his team from New Mexico bring her a chance to learn about the monarchs, and a job — albeit a temporary one — which gives her freedom and money of her own. All of these things give her a chance to re-examine her life and her marriage.

It's a beautiful story, though a little slow to start. The set up of the monarchs on the hill took longer than I would have liked. But by the third chapter, I was lost in Kingsolver's words and in her performance.

Monarchs over wintering at Ardenwood Farm in Fremont, California

Five stars

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