Flight Behavior tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a restless housewife in Tennessee, who uses the appearance of monarch butterflies on the mountain on her family's property to take control of and become more contented with her life. Dellarobia Turnbow is a young woman who has already lived a long life at the age of 27. Having lost both of her parents, she became pregnant at 17 and married her high school boyfriend, Cub Turnbow. Though they ended up losing the baby, they remained married and moved into a house on Cub's parents' property. At the book's opening, they have two young children, Preston and Cordelia. Restless and discontented with her life, Dellabrobia has begun a flirtation with a young man in the rural Tennessee community in which she lives. One day she decides to finally give into temptation and meet the man on the mountain on the family's property. As she is walking, she sees a remarkable sight of color covering the trees and sky in front of her. She cannot quite make out what she is seeing, but she takes it as a sign and returns home.
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Unable to stop thinking about what she saw, Dellarobia is given another chance to explore the phenomenon when Cub's father, Bear, agrees to let a logging company have access to the mountain. Dellarobia convinces her husband and in-laws to explore the mountain further, to make sure this is something they really want to do. When they all walk up the mountain, they discover hordes of monarch butterflies inhabiting the trees, the sight of which is something none of them have seen before.
As news spreads, the discovery brings the Turnbows attention, first from within their community, then from all over the region and country. Dellarobia is visited by the family of a girl in Preston's class at school. The family, who immigrated from Mexico, tell her that monarch butterflies used to spend the winter season in their community, but after a flood and mudslide, both the family and the butterflies were forced to find a home elsewhere. This is the first indication Dellarobia has of the greater implications of the monarchs' presence. Another visitor to their home becomes one of the central characters of the book. Ovid Byron is a scientist from New Mexico. He is deeply passionate about understanding and helping the monarch butterflies, and explains to Dellarobia and her family about the effect of climate change on the butterflies' migratory patterns. Ovid ends up setting up a laboratory on the Turnbow's property and living in a trailer in order to study the butterflies on the mountain thoroughly. Both Dellarobia and her son Preston take a great interest in Ovid and his research. Dellarobia is captivated both by the things he tells her about the butterflies, and by the man himself, who is handsome and charming. Cub, a man who is set in his ways, trusting in his religion, and content with their simple life doesn't trust Ovid, and is not interested in learning what he has to share about climate change. Dellarobia starts working part time for Ovid, helping in the lab, an arrangement that Cub is begrudgingly agreeable to, as Dellarobia has always stayed home with the children full time. However, Dellarobia loves the time she spends in the lab and on the mountain with Ovid, and though she realizes that her romantic interest in him is silly and fleeting, as they are both married, she respects him professionally and appreciates the chance she has given him. Dellarobia eventually tells Cub that she thinks that although they have made a decent life together for their children, she does not think they are meant to be together, since they only married in the first place because she was pregnant. As the book ends, Dellarobia tells Preston that Cub will stay on the farm while she moves into town and starts going to school, and that the children will spend time with both of their parents.
Best part of story, including ending:
The book is deeply introspective and tells the story of a woman stuck in her Appalachian lifestyle, but at the same time tackles the issue of global issue. It is an interesting study of how global issues truly affect everyone, though they do so in different ways.
Best scene in story:
The opening scene is one of the most important, as it introduces Dellarobia as a character struggling internally. As she walks up the mountain she is totally unsure if what she is doing is right, and she is deeply affected by the vision she sees of butterflies covering the trees. This scene sets the stage for the rest of the book, and creates sympathy for Dellarobia as a character who is unsure of what she is doing as she goes ahead with her life on a day-to-day basis.
Opinion about the main character:
Dellarobia is a sympathetic character, as someone who has in many ways been forced into her circumstances. The easiest thing to fault her for is her inability to be honest with her husband about her discontentment, though this again is understandable, as he is a very uncommunicative person. However, it is admirable to see Dellarobia grow more and more confident as the book progresses, and be more and more open and honest with her husband, her in-laws, and herself.