1st edition cover
Dellarobia Turnbow is a 28-year-old discontented housewife living with her family on a farm in rural Tennessee. On a hike, on which she is planning to meet a telephone repairman to begin an affair with him, the heroine finds that the valley behind their house is covered in millions of monarch butterflies. As the news of her discovery spreads, she receives a visit from Ovid Byron, a university professor who studies the monarchs, and warns that although they are beautiful, they are a disturbing symptom of global climate change, displaced from their typical wintering location in Mexico, and that they may not survive the harsh Tennessee winter.
Writing in UK Sunday newspaper The Observer, Robin McKie found, "In general, Flight Behaviour is an impressive work. It is complex, elliptical and well-observed. Dellarobia and her kin come over as solid but believable individuals, outlined with respect and balance. Even Cub, her much put-upon simpleton of a husband, and his dreadful, manipulative mother Hester, are ultimately accorded sympathy". McKie was less impressed with Kingsolver’s portrayal, "almost to the point of overkill", of the Turnbow family’s poverty. "However", he added, "it is the issue of climate change that hangs, unspoken, over proceedings", and concluded by saying, "[ ] Kingsolver makes her message clear. If only a few more scientists started screaming on TV and radio then we might have a chance to avoid the worst of the calamities that lie ahead".
In The Daily Telegraph, Beth Jones noted that, "Kingsolver has carved a career from examining social issues in her novels, from economic inequality to racism. In Flight Behaviour, it's the causes and consequences of climate change that form the novel's core. As lepidopterist Ovid Bryon shouts: 'For God's sake… the damn globe is catching fire and the islands are drowning. The evidence is staring [you] in the face'". Jones found that, "[ ] in Flight Behaviour she once again manages to make a global crisis seem relevant through tiny domestic details", before concluding that, "The result is a compelling plot with lyrical passages and flashes of humour. Absorbing and entertaining, Flight Behaviour engages the reader in the quotidian details of Dellarobia's life, while insisting that we never forget the crumbling world beneath her, and our, feet".
Reviewing the book in The New York Times, Dominique Browning wrote of "the intricate tapestry of Barbara Kingsolver's majestic and brave new novel", adding, "Her subject is both intimate and enormous, centered on one woman, one family, one small town no one has ever heard of — until Dellarobia stumbles into a life-altering journey of conscience. How do we live, Kingsolver asks, and with what consequences, as we hurtle toward the abyss in these times of epic planetary transformation? And make no mistake about it, the stakes are that high. Postapocalyptic times, and their singular preoccupation with survival, look easy compared with this journey to the end game. Yet we must also deal with the pinching boots of everyday life. […] One of the gifts of a Kingsolver novel is the resplendence of her prose. She takes palpable pleasure in the craft of writing, creating images that stay with the reader long after her story is done".
- Donahue, Deirdre; McClurg, Jocelyn; Memmott, Carol; Minzesheimer, Bob; Wilson, Craig (19 December 2012). "10 Books We Loved Reading in 2012". USA Today. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- McKie, Robin (11 November 2012). "Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver – review". The Observer. London. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
- Jones, Beth (1 November 2012). "Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver: review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
- Browning, Dominique (9 November 2012). "Sunday Book Review, The Butterfly Effect: ‘Flight Behavior,’ by Barbara Kingsolver". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved 15 October 2015.