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The Flitting: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons, and Butterflies (Paperback)

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A deeply felt and moving memoir about how butterflies become a vital connection between a son and his dying father.

Flitting also means transformation from one state of being to another. It evokes in my mind a butterfly, whose movement is of course a flitting—flittering and fluttering—and whose very condition is a flitting, programmed to fundamental change.

The Flitting: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons, and Butterflies is a masterful and touching memoir blending natural history, pop culture, and literary biography—delivering a richly layered and nuanced portrait of a son’s attempt, after years of stubborn resistance, to take on his dying father’s love of the natural world. With his father unable to leave the house and follow the butterfly cycle for the first time since he was a child, Masters endeavors to become his connection to the outdoors and his treasured butterflies, reporting back with stories of beloved species—Purple Emperors, Lulworth Skippers, Wood Whites and Silver-studded Blues—and with stories of the woods and meadows that are their habitats and once were his. Structured around a series of exchanges and remembrances, butterflies become a way of talking about masculinity, memory, generational differences, and ultimately loss and continuation. Masters takes readers on an unlikely journey where Luther Vandross and The Sopranos rub shoulders with the likes of Angela Carter and Virginia Woolf on butterflies and gender; the metamorphoses of Prince; Zadie Smith on Joni Mitchell and how sensibilities evolve; and the lives and works of Vladimir Nabokov and other literary lepidopterists.

In this beautiful debut memoir, Ben Masters offers an intensely authentic, unforgettable portrait of a father and son sharing passions, lessons, and regrets before they run out of time.

About the Author

Ben Masters teaches English at the University of Nottingham. His literary journalism has appeared in New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and Literary Review.

Praise For…

The Flitting is a dance and a dazzle of a book; at once a moving father-son memoir and the flicker-flitter story of a butterfly chase, in all its actual and metaphorical vibrancy. It tells of a life lost and a worldview discovered, in a voice that beautifully balances lightness and cleverness.

— Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland

The Flitting is a masterwork, seamlessly tying together several threads, building bridges with rich, touchable imagery and language that overflows with joy and ache, sometimes simultaneously. You will exit this book more curious, more thoughtful about the world, more capable of a wide breadth of feeling.

— Hanif Abdurraquib, author of There's Always This Year

Reading The Flitting is like following a meandering butterfly through the woods. There is purpose and power in the detours, beauty in the quiet moments, and satisfaction in articulating the invisible thread we grasp to honor love, loss, and legacy. Like H is for Hawk, Masters weaves together the words of multiple generations of naturalists, helping readers find strength in those who came before so we can be strong for those who will follow. A lyrical tribute to the power of connection.

— Sara Dykman, author of Bicycling with Butterflies

A heartfelt and moving memoir of fathers and fritillaries, bereavement and brimstones, and the solace and wonder to be found in the natural world.
— Patrick Barkham, author of The Butterfly Isles

Product Details
ISBN: 9781959030812
ISBN-10: 1959030817
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: October 1st, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English