book review: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

The backstory: Flight Behavior was shortlisted for the 2013 Orange Prize for Women's Fiction.

The basics: Dellarobia is a young, married mother of two in Appalachia. When Monarch butterflies are discovered in the woods behind their home, their land becomes a spectacle of sorts.

My thoughts: There's a fabulous moment in Center Stage (one of my all-time favorite films) when Peter Gallagher's character says "I need to see the movement, not the effort behind it." That sentiment perfectly fits my thoughts on Flight Behavior: As I read, I saw the effort behind the novel rather than the novel itself. I don't necessarily mean that as a criticism. Flight Behavior is a novel I quite enjoyed, but it wasn't one that swept me away. I never felt the characters were real people, but they were well-formed. I didn't feel Flight Behavior was set in actual Appalachia, but rather an idyllic version of it. Still, I loved the experience of reading this novel. Kingsolver's prose was fluid and beautiful. This novel is filled with long sentences, long paragraphs, and long chapters. I found myself wanting to read it in bursts, and as I finished each chapter, I closed the book and pondered it for awhile. It wasn't a classic page turner, as I didn't care as much about what happened as I did why Kingsolver makes the choices she makes: I cared more about her motivations as a writer and the message than I did about the characters.

The verdict: Flight Behavior is a thought-provoking novel concerned with climate change and science. This emphasis is both a strength and a weakness, as I found myself more engaged with the issues than the characters themselves. Kingsolver's writing shines brighter than the characters, but it's a novel I ultimately quite enjoyed, albeit for surprising reasons.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 448 pages
Publication date: 
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Flight Behavior from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit all the tour stops, visit Barbara Kingsolver's website, and like her on Facebook.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. Ha! I love that movie. And that's a great comparison. I have this one waiting for me, so we'll see how it goes.

  2. I love that movie too and you hit the nail on the head with this review. I felt that the book was just a vehicle for the message she wanted to put out there. I still thought it was well done, but the characters... oh that woman! Cannot believe she shared that news with her son on his bday.

    1. Yes! I think the reason Dellarobia didn't bug me more was because I never thought of her as a real person, so I wasn't attached to her actions. I had to keep reminding myself she was young and Southern because I kept thinking of her as a middle-aged WASPy person.

      I had the hardest time writing this review. Ugh.

  3. I listened to the audio version which the author narrated. I did get the feel of being in Appalachia from hearing the accents. Definitely agree, the story was a vehicle for the message, but I enjoyed it anyway.

    1. Leslie, I wish I would have listened to this one, I think.

  4. I could never get into this book because I couldn't connect with any of the characters either. Someday I'll give it another try.

  5. When I read this one I'll keep in mind that the issues are the real focus of the book so I don't worry if I don't connect with the characters.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  6. Now I have to watch the movie you referenced:) I liked the book..not loved but liked.

  7. Your review of this book is spot-on, and puts into words all the things I was feeling as I was reading. The quote perfectly summarizes what I've been thinking the whole time, too. I respect Kingsolver so much, and the work that she has done and continues to do, and I know what she was trying to do with this novel. I just couldn't believe in the legitimacy of the characters, and I think that made me always feel like I was ingesting the story at arm's-length.


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