Book Review: The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

The Butterfly’s Daughter was one of the books chosen for my book club reads, which always brings me interesting books I might not have picked up myself. This book revolves around Luz, a young woman who has been raised by her grandmother since her mother’s death when Luz was five. Inspired by her grandmother’s love for the monarch butterfly and her desire to go home, Luz takes a road trip from Milwaukee to Mexico in an effort to fulfill her grandmother’s wishes. Along the way she meets a rather (predictably) motley cast of characters she soon calls friends, each adding something of their own to Luz’ trip. As you can expect, Luz learns a lot about herself and her family along the way.

I enjoyed this book, although I didn’t love it. Luz was a great character. She was well balanced. Loving without being clingy, independent, not always sure of what to do next, longing for family but not so willing to forgive and forget. She was not a stereotype. As the main character of the book, Luz’ was the most well served by the writing. None of the rest of the characters were total stereotypes either, but there were parts that seemed a little typical at the very least.

Only one description of a character made me roll my eyes. The author was describing two sisters who had in the past had a difficult relationship. The one she wanted us to take most note of was beautiful and thin etc. etc. etc. The other was described as having “gained a lot of weight after her divorce and her eyes were now gleaming slits in her face with dust-colored smudges beneath.” This struck me as incredibly amateur. There’s nothing wrong with describing the sisters as one beautiful, one not, but at least try to be subtle about it.

That was Monroe’s biggest fault by far, her lack of subtle writing. For example, an insane amount of use of the butterfly as metaphor. Yes, I know. The book is called the Butterfly’s Daughter, I should expect that. But then there’s the fact that the grandmother raises butterflies, Luz’ mother’s name means butterfly in Spanish, their ancestral home in Mexico is a butterfly sanctuary where they all arrive on the day of the dead, Luz meets a butterfly catcher/tagger/whathaveyou on her trip, her other companion had always planned to go to the sanctuaries with her father….it just got to be a bit much, in my opinion.

To be fair, there were several places in the text where I was rather confident I hads predicted the outcome, only to be proven very wrong at the end of the book. And not only was a wrong, but I got the sense that Monroe had placed those bits and pieces of hints in the text to throw off readers like me; readers who are sometimes too convinced of their own ability to see what’s coming. I give kudos to the author for that.

Finally, I would have really liked to know what happened to a Luz’ travel mates after everything. It’s sad we didn’t learn their fate. But maybe Monroe has a sequel planned. If she does, I’d probably read it.

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